This week, the world marks an anniversary that has changed the face — and other anatomical regions — of email inboxes everywhere: the first known spam email was sent 30 years ago.
The message sent on May 3, 1978 by a marketer for the now defunct DEC computer company to around 400 people on the west coast of the US wasn’t called spam, and the sender dispatched it without ill intent.
How things have changed.
These days spamming is a sophisticated operation that affects millions, and jams ill-prepared email inboxes.The percentage of spam sent to account holders on Gmail quadrupled between 2004 and 2008, climbing from 20 per cent to around 80 per cent.
Spam methodology has also changed in the past 30 years. Whereas the sender of the first spam had to type in each recipient’s address individually, today the job is often done remotely, using cyber-monsters called botnets.
Brad Templeton, who has thoroughly researched the subject, told AFP that botnets have hijacked around 30 per cent of personal and office computers with inadequate security features, and use them to despatch spam in thousands each day.
Last year, 75 per cent of Americans who were tricked by Internet fraudsters into parting with 239.09 million dollars were ensnared through a spam message, according to a report by the FBI.
But despite the warnings, the spammers still fish and people still bite.
“PT Barnum was right when he said there’s a sucker born every minute,” said Templeton. “I’ll expand it to say there’s a sucker spammed every second.”