A concise overview of spam history

Spam is a relatively new concern, yet it has a long history. Gary Thuerk, an employee of the now-defunct Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC), sent out the first spam email in 1978 to advertise a new product. About 400 of the 2,600 users with email accounts on the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network received unwanted emails. According to some sources, it brought around $12 million in new sales for DEC.

On the other hand, the term spam was not coined until 1993. It was used on Usenet, a newsgroup mix of email and an online forum. A bug in the company’s new moderating software resulted in the automated posting of over 200 posts to a discussion forum. The incident was playfully dubbed “spamming.”

In 1994, Usenet was also the first large-scale spam assault target. Spam accounted for 80 per cent to 85 per cent of all email messages transmitted worldwide by 2003. The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act of 2003 was enacted after it had become such a prevalent problem. The most critical rule that genuine email marketers must follow to avoid being classified as spammers is still CAN-SPAM.

The average daily spam volume declined from 316.39 billion to around 122 billion between mid-2020 and early 2021. However, spam still accounts for 85 per cent of all emails, costing open businesses billions of dollars each year.

Spamming tactics that are often used

Spammers employ a variety of methods to transmit spam, including the following:

Botnets. Botnets allow spammers to capture email addresses and deliver spam using command-and-control servers.

Spam with snowshoes. Spammers employ a broad range of Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and email accounts with impartial reputations to spread spam extensively using this strategy.

Spam email with no content. This method entails sending an email with no message body or subject line. It might be used to verify email addresses in a directory harvesting attack by finding invalid bounced addresses. In certain cases, ostensibly blank emails may include viruses or worms that can propagate through the email’s Hypertext Markup Language coding.

Spam with images. The message text is saved as a JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) or GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) file in the email body and is unreadable to human users. This strategy tries to avoid being detected by spam filters based on text.

Spam classifications

Depending on the spammer’s intent, email spam can take several forms, including the following:

Messages for marketing. Unsolicited or unlawful items or services are sold in this sort of spam.

Messages from malware Some spam emails contain malware that can deceive recipients into giving out personal information, spending money, or doing something they wouldn’t ordinarily do.

Scams and frauds. A well-known example of email-based fraud is the advance fee/Nigerian prince scam. A user receives an email with an offer to pay an advance fee or make a modest deposit in exchange for a reward. The scammer will either fabricate new prices or cease replying after they have made money.

Antivirus alerts. These notifications “warn” the user of virus infection and provide a “fix” for it. The hacker can acquire access to the user’s system if the user falls for the bait and clicks on a link in the email. The email may contain a malicious file that will be downloaded to the device.

Winners of sweepstakes. Spammers send emails stating that the receiver has won a reward or sweepstakes. The receiver must click on a link within the email to claim the bonus. The link is fraudulent and is commonly used to steal personal information from users.