Voting for the next top spammer

There was a time when spamming had few consequences. Before you decide to overshare your next product offer and blast emails to everyone on your database, it is worth understanding some of the underlying technologies within the email system.

Spammers are estimated to generate a huge proportion of email traffic every day. In January 2013, Symantec estimated 64% of all emails were spam. Despite the huge volumes involved, the large bulk of spam emails never make it through to inboxes.

The reason is simple. ISPs now filter a lot of emails, and use IP address and domain blacklists to prevent spammers from flooding their networks. This helps reduce a large bulk of the spam as it traverses the cloud. While some spam is the result of obnoxious companies, a lot of it is actually sent via sophisticated organised cybercrime syndicates using computers that have been hacked.

Most email clients now offer a simple button to flag an email as spam. Email account providers can then initiate an automated email feedback loop (FBL) process, which reports a spamming complaint against the sender. While it isn’t perfect, it does allow filters to be adjusted quickly to deal with new sources and content. The latest figures from Spamhause indicate that the top sources of spam this week are in #1 USA, #2 China, and #3 Russia.

Now major ISPs process millions of emails every second, so it should be obvious that very few FBL complaints get any human attention. If enough FBL complaints are lodged against you, your email server (or computer) will automatically be blacklisted as a source of spam. Just imagine every outbound email sent by your businesses going straight into a black hole, never to be seen by customers.

It gets even better. Some people prefer to hit the spam button instead of unsubscribing from your emails. So even perfectly innocent (and legal) emails can get you into trouble. A pretty high price to pay for sending boring emails.

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