Microsoft: 97 Percent of E-mail Is Spam

REDMOND, Wash. - According to a new security report from Microsoft, 97 percent of e-mail is unwanted spam.

Much of that spam mail ends up in junk mail folders through filtering programs, but some of it still sneaks through, the study said. Nearly 50 percent of unsolicited messages are drug-company related, reports ArsTechnica.

The Microsoft report said a greater amount of spam was blocked by its Exchange Hosted Filtering services in the latter half of 2008 for most categories, including 40 percent of "non-sexual" pharmacy spam, though sexually related pitches for Viagra- or Cialis-like products and such managed to get through the system.

Reflecting the economy, an increased number of spam messages are mostly financially related, covering mortgage offers, foreclosures, and investment and tax schemes

The Microsoft figures report larger amounts of spam than studies from other companies, such as MessageLabs Intelligence, ArsTechnica said.

The largest recorded amount of spam this year came in February during the Valentine's Day period. MessageLabs stated it brought e-mail spam traffic levels to nearly 80 percent, though the entire month was just slightly above 73 percent, actually a bit lower than nearly 75 percent in January.

MessageLabs and other firms, such as Symantec, agree that automated "botnets" were on the rise again, having dropped significantly last November with the shutdown of "rogue" ISP McColo, accused both spam proliferation and child porn.

"Since the shutdown of hosting company McColo in mid-November 2008, spam volumes have slowly made their way back to 'normal,'" said the Symantec report. "Old botnets are being brought back online, and new botnets are being created. Spam volumes are now at 91 percent of their pre-McColo shutdown levels."

The Symantec report said 28 percent of spam in March came out of the U.S., with Brazil at 9 percent and India dropping to 4 percent, while spam from China has gone down steadily -- perhaps from the nation's website purges this year -- now sitting at 3 percent.