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June 2008

Spam blockers losing ground on sophisticated attackers

Spam hasn't been "solved"; in fact, the scourge has grown worse as attackers continually trump counter-measures and refine their focus on high-value targets. The war against spam has not come to a swift and just conclusion. Ever since Bill Gates' proclamation in 2004 that spam will be "solved" within two years, the problem has gotten worse, with no light at the end of the tunnel. As with any conflict, it's instructive to understand how and why it started, how it is being fought and what we can expect. Spam started primarily as a marketing vehicle. Sending email to harvested lists was the most cost-effective way to get a message out; a very small percentage of responses to these mass mailings was enough to turn a profit. It wasn't long before spam was used to carry malicious payloads. Ranging from Melissa, I Love You and MyDoom to the most recent scourge, Storm, the email attack is here to stay. The reason is pretty obvious: the attack mechanism remains as profitable as ever. Sophisticated spammers bring traditional direct ...

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