After spam

If spam emails didn’t sometimes encourage people to click through and make a purchase, it wouldn’t exist as a business. The fact that we all get spam means that, despite the costs of doing so, somebody still finds it profitable to send out all of those emails. The truly amazing thing, though, is the number of emails spammers have to send in order to capture a single customer. The Economist had an article a few weeks ago that provided some data:

In 2008 researchers from the University of California at Berkeley and San Diego posed as spammers, infiltrated a botnet and measured its success rate. The investigation confirmed only 28 “sales” on 350m e-mail messages sent, a conversion rate under .00001%. Since then, says Mr Peterson, the numbers have got worse.

Given how good my Gmail account is at filtering out spam and assuming that other email software is rising to that standard, I’m not surprised that the conversion rate is so low. So what are spammers doing now?

Well, Twitter seems to be a breeding ground in rude health:

…researchers from the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana show that 8% of links published [on Twitter] were shady, with most of them leading to scams and the rest to Trojans.

And I suspect we’ll see Facebook become an increasingly important launching pad for similar threats. The security arms race continues.

Happy holidays, dear readers!