We have met the enemy and he is us.
So says the Radicati Group, which Wednesday released preliminary
results of a survey showing that it's bad behavior on the part of
users -- us, in other words -- driving the spam and virus threat.
And you thought it was spammers and hackers.
"Frankly, it surprised us that users are still responding to 'spam'
and opening 'unsolicited' mail," said Sarah Radicati, the chief
executive of the Palo Alto, Calif.-based market research firm which
conduced the online poll.
According to Radicati's survey, 31 percent of those polled have
clicked on embedded links within spam at one time or another.
"Clicking on embedded links helps spammers determine 'live' accounts,
which encourages repeated spam attacks," said Radicati. And
enterprises can be compromised by a single miscreant. When an active
account with a domain is identified, organizations are at greater risk
of follow-up directory harvest attacks.
Eighteen percent of users admitted that they'd clicked on the
"unsubscribe" link in spam, another behavior that's exploited by
spammers, who then know the address, and perhaps the entire domain,
are active and so potential targets for follow-on spam campaigns. Even
worse, spammers sell and trade lists with virus writers eager to
accumulate bots, so by telling a spammer they're "live," users
increase their risk of later receiving worms and viruses.
But the most stunning statistic, said Radicati, was the last: more
than 10 percent of the respondents have purchased products advertised
"With the near-zero cost of sending out huge volumes of spam, the fact
that more than one in ten users are purchasing products is clearly
continuing to drive the economics of spam," said Radicati.
"Although one person's spam may be another person's information," she
said, "it's clear that education isn't working. Either the spam
product offers are just too good to pass up, or users still have an
enormous lack of awareness of the danger of clicking on e-mailed
Companies need to do a much better job, she said, of educating their
employees. "They're not," Radicati said. "They may say 'don't do this'
and 'never do that,' but there's simply not much formal training."
Our continued bad habits, she said, explains why e-mail security
threats -- spam, worms, phishing -- continue to explode.
"Anti-spam technology routinely achieves 90 percent plus catch-rates,
yet no technology in the world can protect an organization if users
exercise bad e-mail behavior."
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