Tag Archives: Business

News: Spam Stats Galore

  If it’s one thing we’re not short of, it’s spam stats. Here are two more, fresh from the PR newswire:
 
Clearswift, “the world leader in managing and securing electronic communications” (I’ll be honest, I hadn’t heard of them until today), has this week launched a Spam Index, in which it has found that “in contrast to recent reports that have suggested pornographic spam
constitutes 60-80 percent of spam, Clearswift’s Spam Index shows that pornographic spam is found only 22 percent of the time. Instead, the largest proportion of spam – 23 percent – was distributed by companies selling direct goods.”
Also, a study released the same day by The Radicati Group Inc., “a leading independent market research firm” found that email traffic has grown 80% over the past year, most of which it blames on spam, which it said represents 24% of total corporate email traffic.
 
Email size, it says, is also on the rise.  Larger and more frequent use of attachments are the primary culprits for this trend. The full press release is only available in Acrobat PDF format.
 
My tuppence: Radicati’s figure for total spam proportion seems way too low. And while I’d agree with Clearswift that porn does not dominate spam — I’m not sure where they got their figures, but their website press release headline blames a “sensationalizing media” for it — there seems to be a reason to be somewhat suspicious of their motives for telling us all this. Telling is a paragraph on their website press release that offers a spin on things:
 
Although it only takes one pornographic email to cause offence and land an organization in litigation for harassment, the level of unsolicited email that falls into the ?healthcare? and ?direct goods? categories suggests the problem of filtering spam is more complex than simply blocking profane and pornographic emails. Deciding whether or not an email is spam ultimately comes down to whether or not it is the result of a well executed and highly targeted email marketing campaign. The ability to deploy flexible spam filtering solutions that can take into account personal preferences will be vital in the fight against spam.
 
To be frank I’m not sure what this means. I think it means: not all spam is spam, some of it is ” well executed and highly targeted email marketing campaign”, and good spam filtering solutions deployed by corporates shouldn’t block all of it because some people might want this stuff in their inbox. I would have thought a company would want to keep out any junk that’s not specifically requested by an employee, especially if it’s for anti-ageing cream or Viagra. Odd, very odd. Can anyone explain this?

News: How To Be A Pornographer

 Further to my earlier posting about the dangers of folk hijacking your PC to send spam, here’s something from Reuters, appearing on Wired News that confirms the worst: Nearly 2,000 PCs with high-speed Internet connections have been hijacked by a stealth program and are being used to send ads for pornography. The stealth program is a Trojan called “Migmaf” for “migrant Mafia”, and Reuters quotes Richard M. Smith, a privacy and security consultant in Boston, as saying most of the PC owners likely have no idea what is happening. Smith said he suspects whoever is responsible for the Migmaf scam may be in Russia, because some e-mail addresses involved in the scheme go back to Russian servers and there are other Russian language references in some related domain names.
 
How to avoid become an unwitting pornographer? Use a firewall like Zone Alarm (there’s a free version, which should be enough for your needs) and keep your virus checker running and up to date.

Mail: SpamNet

 
Further to my recent column on spam, a reader from Selangor, Malaysia, J. Allen Otten, recommends
SpamNet from Cloudpoint: 
 
“Works rather well and I do not lose emails I really should get.  Cloudpoint places spam (and suspected spam) in a folder called Spam.  If it fails to catch a message that is spam, you can add that message to the filter and next time, you won’t get it.
 
“I get about 30 spams a day.  Cloudpoint gets 28+ of them with no repeats; only the new ones get by.  I do have to delete messages from the Spam folder from time to time and I do have to add a new message source or two a day to the filter.  Short of changing my email address, this program works.”
 
SpamNet costs $4 a month.

Column: Ethel fights back

Loose Wire — Tea, Sympathy And Service

By Jeremy Wagstaff
from the 25 July 2002 edition of the Far Eastern Economic Review, (c) 2003, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
If you want good customer service on-line, try impersonating a little old lady. It worked for me.

Frustrated by the poor response to my own e-mail enquiries to big companies — I’m not naming names here, except to say I’m still waiting for replies from the likes of 3Com, Fujitsu and Linksys — I figured things might work better if I metamorphosed into Ethel M. Girdle, a septuagenarian who claims to have typed her way through World War II while flying Spitfire fighter aircraft and is a dab hand at growing roses and laying on tea parties for the local pastor.

First stop for Ethel was fixing her Zanussi dishwasher. “Hello, young man (or lady),” she wrote to the customer-service centre in Britain. “My washer makes a noise like one of those newfangled leafblower things and my crockery doesn’t get clean. Can you send one of your nice young chaps round to fix it, I’m having the vicar for tea on Friday and if he sees the china in this state he’ll think I’ve gone over to the other side. Yours, Mrs. Girdle.” Zanussi responded with impressive speed and grasp of the gravity of the situation. “Dear Mrs. Girdle,” they wrote. “Sorry to hear of the problems that you are experiencing with your dishwasher, if you would kindly let me have your postcode I will be able to look up the details of your nearest service centre for you so that one of our engineers can come and repair your appliance so that your china gets nice and clean again.”

My own experience of airlines and the Internet has been woeful, so I was interested to see how my fictional friend got on. She wanted to visit her grandson and fired off e-mails to several airlines: “I’m coming to Hong Kong/Sydney/Tokyo/Singapore to see my grandson, who is doing a grand job running one of your banks. This is not the first time I’ve flown (I used to fly during the war, don’t you know) but it’s been a while. Is it OK to bring my cocker spaniel, Poppy? He won’t be any trouble, unless you’ve got rabbits on the aircraft! And may I bring my own teapot on board? I do like a cup of tea in the afternoon.”

Ethel’s still waiting to hear from Japan Airlines and Qantas, while British Airways’ Web site had no functioning e-mail address for ordinary folk. Singapore Airlines offered a form letter, Cathay Pacific was somewhat intimidating: “Please kindly note that domestic animals of any description are not permitted to be carried in the passenger cabin on any Cathay Pacific flights.” But Virgin Atlantic rose to the occasion well: “I can assure you that our crew will make sure you receive a nice cup of tea on the flight or more than one in fact! It would not be necessary to take a teapot with you. Unfortunately Virgin Atlantic do not have a licence to carry pets of any description, even though I am sure he is no trouble.”

Next, Ethel decided to buy a computer. “I need the following,” she e-mailed IBM: “A nice keyboard (if possible an electric one, the manual ones tire me out) and a nice screen to look at. Could I use my TV instead, and save a few dimes? It’s a big one, though black and white and takes forever to warm up. My grandson says I need a CD drive but I think I can just drag the stereo over and plug it into the computer, yes?”

IBM were very helpful. “Please note that all our NetVista (desktops) come with a standard keyboard. However, we are unsure of what you mean by “electric” vs. “manual”, they wrote, before gently pointing out that hooking up her black-and-white TV and CD player to the PC was a no-no.

Encouraged, Ethel went back for advice on the Internet: “Do I need some sort of passport, or special goggles, or something? My grandson says the connections are very fast these days, I don’t want to mess up my hair.” IBM was reassuring, saying a passport wouldn’t be necessary.

Overall, I was impressed. Customer service on-line has a long way to go — shame on those companies that didn’t reply — but at least there are some bright and helpful folk at the end of those e-mail addresses. And for those of you not getting customer satisfaction on-line, feel free to impersonate Ethel. I know I will.