Email spam reaches 20th anniversary

After two decades, rubbish messages and email-based security threats still make up 64 per cent of all emails worldwide.
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01.Spam emails costing Aussies $7m per month

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Twenty years after the first commercial spam emails invaded our inboxes, Australians are reportedly still losing at least $7 million per month to internet swindlers.

Despite awareness campaigns, spam-filtering software and frequent warnings from email clients, people are still falling victim to spam. More than 150 billion spam messages were sent every day in 2012, according to tech market research firm Radicati, and it still makes up 64 per cent of all emails worldwide, according to security software group Symantec’s latest 2014 report.

Although rudimentary versions of spam have been zipping about since the early days of the internet in the 1970s, it didn't morph into its current form until 12 April 1994. Twenty years ago US lawyers Laurence Canter and Martha Siegel sent an email to hundreds of thousands of recipients advertising a “green card lottery”. The small fee involved netted them $100,000 in the process and created the category of nuisance email called spam, though it didn’t get that official name until 1993.

With a low base cost and potentially high return, the techniques of spamming have become synonymous with online money-making scams. These often prey on basic human desires such as wealth and partnership by promoting get-rich-quick schemes or sexual content. Spam is also used to spreading malicious computer software (malware) such as viruses.

In recent years, spamming has overflowed into other forms of digital communication including text messages, social media platforms and online dating websites. Advanced spammers use “bots” (software robots) to auto-generate content, mimicking the behaviour of humans.

The federal government provides services that can hep you stay on top of the latest scams, while avoiding ongoing threats. For information on specific scams, go to SCAMwatch. Stay Smart Online provides general information geared towards safe browsing. CHOICE has also prepared a guide on protecting yourself from ID fraud.



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