The details are beyond us, but this post at Light Blue Touchpaper -- written by somebody who must be both an e-mail expert and a statistician -- contains the germ of good news. We phrase it that way because it still seems to be at the anecdotal stage. Like all scientific and statistical work, the research must be replicated and thoroughly vetted before being accepted as accurate and not an anomaly.
Those qualifications aside, the researchers found that the pattern of spam received over a week's time by Demon Internet, an ISP in the United Kingdom, suggests that the senders were a handful of big gangs instead of a huge number of small fry.
If this is so, it is good news indeed. As the researcher, Richard Clayton, commented:
If there's only a few large gangs operating -- and other people are detecting these huge swings of activity as well -- then that's very significant for public policy. ... [I]f there are, say, five, big gangs at most -- well that's suddenly looking like a tractable problem.
We certainly hope that turns out to be true, because spammers -- be they many small pilot fish or a few big sharks -- are churning out bogus messages at an increasing rate. According to an IDC study and forecast released this week, 40 billion of the 97 billion e-mail messages expected to be sent this year will be spam. Spam, experts say, is accelerating due to new techniques, such as image spam and use of botnets for distribution.
So here's to Mr. Clayton and his research. If it proves to be true, the emphasis can change from killing spam in the network or at the desktop to aggressively trying to disrupt the perpetrators. While still a tough problem, it seems like a preferable one.
Indeed, the e-mail cops would even know where to start looking for those fewer bad guys: Right here in the U.S. As already discussed by ITBE blogger Michael Lindenberger, Sophos said this week that just under one-fifth -- 19.8 percent -- of all spam originates here. A few weeks ago Symantec offered a more startling estimate of the U.S.'s share. Almost 45 percent of spam, the company says, starts here.