Sorry, Dr. Seuss, it just seemed appropriate to take a bit of license with your book’s name. Spam has rapidly moved from minor irritant to nuisance and now to productivity killer.
Let me first give the knowledgeable GonzoBanker a little history:
Spam can be defined as an email message intended to sell a product or service directed to a large number of recipients. From a sales and marketing perspective, delivering a sales message to thousands or even millions of individuals for pennies is a very attractive proposition. A 1 percent response rate to an offer represents a substantial return to the spammer.
Email was first used for marketing purposes in May 1978. Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC) sent a message promoting its computer equipment to all West Coast ARPANET email addresses. (ARPANET was the forerunner to what is now known as the Internet.) DEC was soundly criticized for its actions by the network users. Apparently the scolding was effective, since no further abuse was noted until 1994.
Two Phoenix attorneys are credited with starting the current spam onslaught. In 1994 they posted a message to a multitude of unrelated newsgroups. “Do you want to work in the USA? We can help you obtain a green card” was their bid to obtain additional clients. We don’t know how many new clients resulted from this message, but obviously its success spawned the spam industry.
For sales and marketing firms, spam provides a way to reach millions of recipients quickly and cheaply. Large email address lists can be purchased for hundreds of dollars. Millions of messages can be delivered for a few cents, and they can be delivered over and over again in a very short time frame. Even modest return rates can generate substantial cash flow. To the sales and marketing firm, spam is a gold mine.
GonzoBankers, why should you care about spam? This is a free country and these companies have a right to deliver their messages. We, as consumers, have a right to simply ignore the messages by deleting them from our inboxes. Well, you should care because this “nuisance” has become an avalanche. Here are a few statistics that may cause you to rethink your bank’s attitude toward spam.
Nucleus Research reports in a recent study that the average lost productivity due to spam was 3.1 percent, an increase of 121 percent in 10 months! Nucleus translates this to $1,934 of lost productivity per employee per year. According to Computerworld, each employee receives 13.3 spam messages daily. It further stated that each employee spends 90 minutes per day dealing with spam. My personal experience is far worse; I receive 50 to 100 spam messages per day at home and more than 20 per day at work. Finally, according to Brightmail, spam makes up an astonishing 64 percent of all email traffic! Cowabunga, I bet I’ve got your attention now. Spam is much more than a nuisance; it’s costing your bank real money.
Spam problems have gotten bad enough to spur some firebrands into action. A relatively small group of tech savvy spam-haters are giving the spammers a taste of their own medicine. They have identified some of the companies responsible for sending volumes of email and have used their own software to send large volumes of email to them. Take that, you filthy spammers! Naturally the response of the spammers is to threaten legal action against the perpetrators. So far, the battle has been a draw with little blood drawn by either side.
The above statistics do not consider the technology cost incurred to carry this additional traffic. Your bank needs more bandwidth, more powerful servers, more disk space and staff time to deal with the growing traffic. What is being done to stop the abuse?
Foggy Bottom passed the CAN-SPAM act of 2003 to limit the flow of spam for adult related material (AKA porn). Their legislative efforts resulted in an increase of such messages since passage. The Federal Trade Commission proposed a copycat of the Do-Not-Call list called the Do-Not-Email list. The FTC reported to Congress that this would likely fail since it would give spammers a very long list of legitimate email addresses that would be used to worsen the problem. Allen Hile, assistant director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, also noted that “it would be impossible to enforce.” (Source: Arizona Republic, June 24, 2004)
Software to filter spam messages is available from multiple sources. Its effectiveness is good and getting better. Some efforts by Microsoft and others to validate the sender’s email address are being proposed. Validation of the sender’s email address can be effective because the true sender of spam is usually faked. These efforts will take years to yield results.
So GonzoBankers, what’s a responsible banker to do? At a minimum, do the following:
These small steps only contribute to slowing the growth, they do not address productivity loss and extra technology cost. Hitting spam where it hurts requires added technology and more costs, but it is effective.
Spam can best be controlled at the point of entry to your network. Your IT group can implement a number of hardware/software solutions to limit the amount of spam getting through to your employees. Consider the following steps to gain some control of the spam problem.
Get with your IT group and commit to finding a solution that works for your bank.
Spammers reading this article should direct comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Good luck, and may the spam be with you.