Spam - all day, every day


Thought Leadership

Spam - all day, every day

Jonathan French

Spam has been around almost since the internet was first created. In fact the first spam message was sent out through ARPANET which is the predecessor to the internet we know now. If you have an email address, it’s very likely you get spam messages as well. Sending spam emails is a tactic that’s still around today because it’s a tactic that works. Fortunately with the hunt for shutting down botnets and people being more security focused, it makes spamming less effective and thus less profitable for spammers. With money powering most spam activities, stopping spam impacts income which can in theory lead to less people turning to spam tactics as a viable option of making money.

Here at AppRiver, we still see spam all day every day.  In June 2015, for example, the month averaged out to be 80% spam for all traffic seen (low: 72% and high: 95%). This is about average overall for our normal spam traffic we see month to month. The high points are normally going to be the weekdays and the low points are during the weekend when traffic is at its lowest across the board.


Looking even further back gives a better picture about fluctuations in traffic. These fluctuations can happen for all sorts of reasons like new botnets coming on and offline, Governments/ISPs cracking down on spammers, or just down to timing depending on what spammers are active out there. But the overall trend over this time has been pretty steady. Seeing traffic double or triple for a short time is pretty normal in our filtering, as well as big drop offs. In the end though traffic usually levels out to an average amount.


Virus traffic is something that hasn’t sustained any large leaps in volume, but we have seen that over about the past year the traffic has been relatively steady. We haven’t been seeing the drastic spikes in virus traffic that used to be more common. This isn’t to say virus traffic has lowered, but instead it’s at a more constant flow than it was a year or more ago. With things like Cryptowall viruses and Macro documents being popular and effective, we expect to continue seeing those come in.


Looking ahead and giving an opinion, I don’t see email traffic making a huge change in trend of volume, up or down. There have been times in the past where major takedowns have affected traffic globally for everyone out there, but these days a lot of spam comes from botnets instead of just large hosting providers that didn’t care about spam. These botnets are much harder to be tracked down and stopped given how many computers are connected and infected on the internet. Stopping botnets is a delicate task that primarily involves taking down the command and control servers. But with how sophisticated botnets have become and seeing them constantly evolve, there are redundancies they build in to try and thwart any takedown attempts.

With a combination of email and web protection that can block unwanted traffic, we’re constantly in a battle to try and stay ahead of new methods and technologies spammers and attackers are using to get spam to someone’s inbox or infect their computers with the latest virus threats out there.