What have changed in 30 years of spam?

Spam celebrates anniversary this year: 30 years have gone since the day a clever manager sent 400 email messages to potential customers inviting them to a presentation. Luckily, the name of the manager is being kept in silence; otherwise many would go on a headhunt to punish the one that gave a start to spam over the internet. The guy didn’t have any bad intentions and the spam message was much different from spam we know today.

The unwanted messages that advertise certain products and services are probably the most known. The other type of spam brings malware in form of attachments and links to infected websites. And the third type combines the methods of latter two types. The word spam usually brings negative emotions; however, not every unsolicited email message can be called spam. Many websites use email messages to reach subscribers; many companies use email addresses of their clients to inform the latter about new products. Email address is a required field on many registration forms; if it is used for sending information, a person can only blame himself for sharing the address. Not everyone that floods your mailbox with a spam is a real spammer. There are computer parasites that can use one’s email secretly to spread rubbish.

There is one distinct difference between 30-years-old spam and spam as we know it today: unsolicited messages were evolving and gradually became much more creative than the old ones. Spam once was an advertising technique (Viagra, online poker, plastic surgery, etc.); later it became a tool for many different scams. Nigerian scam, UK lottery and fake tax rebates are just a few to mention. The third type of spam is probably the most dangerous as it combines tactics of both type one and type two. The nowadays spam is complicated because it is a part of a bigger scam. Unwanted email messages are masked to look like expected letters: notification from online bank, newsletter from reputable website, a message from a relative – wouldn’t you open a message like that? Many ways are used to mislead the recipient and make him download useless software, pay for dubious services and give away his personal information.

Spam is more dangerous today than it ever was before. Although people are more computer-literate and avoid suspicious messages, spam is more creative, more targeted and more complicated, therefore it attracts more victims. It was 400 email messages the first time and the poor guy entered every email address manually. And now there are thousands of bots collecting email addresses online and sending spam. The number of spam messages increased enormously through the 3 decades. The exact number varies on different researcher, but approximately 80 to 95 percent of email messages are spam.


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