24 November 2004

South Africa: SA a Regional Frontrunner in Spam

Johannesburg — Spam levels have increased significantly in SA, as spammers seek new regions to ply their trade. This is according to visiting anti-virus experts from Symantec.

The US remains the most spammed, but that region is reaching saturation point, says David Feeney, EMEA Brightmail business development manager at Symantec. This fact, coupled with more stringent legislation, has seen spammers targeting other regions more vigorously.

"EMEA seems to be the next target, where spam has increased from 15% to 20% up to around 50%."

The problem is even more prevalent in SA, says Feeney, with feedback from local businesses indicating that spam accounts for more than half of all e-mail in the country.

"After speaking to a number of our local clients, and some prospective clients, it's clear that spam levels are surprisingly high. SA actually has a higher level than the EMEA average, but it is still well behind the US, where the level is around 80%.

"The problem is so big in SA, that an industrial strength solution is needed."

The problem of spam is exacerbated in SA due to the relatively high bandwidth costs, adds Jones.

For anti-spam vendors, eliminating the problem of unsolicited mail is extremely difficult, as they are effectively playing catch-up with spammers, says Stuart Jones, Brightmail senior systems engineer specialist at Symantec.

"Spammers are continuously changing the make-up of their messages in a bid to stay one step a head. For companies like us, it is frustrating. Just when we think we are up to date, they will move on and the process starts all over again."

A key requirement for tackling spam is for businesses in particular to take a holistic approach, adds Feeney. While legislation has proved effective in curbing spam in certain areas, offenders will always find another developing region with less stringent laws to send their messages.

"To enforce legislation on something as far-reaching as the Web is practically impossible," says Feeney.

While the market has always been reactive when tackling spam, future initiatives should take a more proactive approach. "What we are doing at Symantec is setting up a globally pervasive network to defeat spam. Because Symantec is an international company, we are able to pick up on spamming trends, and so on."

While a number of initiatives can be in place to counter spam, it is unlikely that the epidemic will disappear any time soon, says Feeney. "People have been trying to tackle computer viruses for so long, yet they remain prevalent, and viruses writers don't even do it for money. Unfortunately, there is just too much of a money motive for spamming to disappear."

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