Spam Reduced 66% Worldwide After One Company Shuttered

emailspam is lost productivityWorldwide spam is down 66% since this past Tuesday, November 11, 2008, after two ISPs said “enough!” and pulled the plug on a California hosting company.

The story was reported by the Washington Post:

The volume of junk e-mail sent worldwide dropped drastically today after a Web hosting firm identified by the computer security community as a major host of organizations allegedly engaged in spam activity was taken offline, according to security firms that monitor spam distribution online.

While its gleaming, state-of-the-art, 30-story office tower in downtown San Jose, Calif., hardly looks like the staging ground for what could be called a full-scale cyber crime offensive, security experts have found that a relatively small firm at that location is home to servers that serve as a gateway for a significant portion of the world’s junk e-mail.

The servers are operated by McColo Corp., which these experts say has emerged as a major U.S. hosting service for international firms and syndicates that are involved in everything from the remote management of millions of compromised computers to the sale of counterfeit pharmaceuticals and designer goods, fake security products and child pornography via email.

But the company’s web site was not accessible today, when two Internet providers cut off MoColo’s connectivity to the Internet, security experts said. Immediately after McColo was unplugged, security companies charted a precipitous drop in spam volumes worldwide. E-mail security firm IronPort said spam levels fell by roughly 66 percent as of Tuesday evening.

When I first read this, I thought: it can’t be. One hosting company cannot be responsible for so much spam. So I checked my junk mail folders for various email accounts. And you know what? Those junk mail folders had at least 50% less spam than what I have unfortunately come to consider “normal.”

And my “good mail” inbox was remarkably clear of the occasional spam message that inevitably seems to sneak through. Only one got through the filters since Tuesday — a record.

When I think of the lost productivity that I and other small biz people suffer from having to scan through hundreds of spam messages daily to find legitimate emails that get snared by mistake, it is really annoying. I only hope this respite lasts a little while.

Check your spam folders in your email programs. Have you noticed any difference in spam volumes?

And is anyone else bothered by the fact that this was a community effort, and that government law enforcement did not appear to take action?


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

18 Reactions
  1. Yes, this is great news. The bad news is that they’ll be back. Probably within days. The problem is that there are too many fools who actually click on the links in those messages. It’s not going to stop until everyone understands the problem. I doubt that will ever happen.

  2. This is great news for all of us. It’s hard to reconcile what constitutes as spam vs. sales and marketing from legitimate companies with useful or beneficial products, but I’m glad that there is an active effort to reduce spam. After reading this, I’m curious about the legal aspects of spam – are there laws that define what is and is not spam? How is it policed? Interesting to think about.

  3. It’s not hard at all “…to reconcile what constitutes as spam vs. sales and marketing from legitimate companies with useful or beneficial products…”! If it’s pushed into my inbox and I didn’t _explicitly_ request it, then it’s spam. Good companies don’t fill my inbox (e-mail, snail-mail, or any other way) with junk mail. If you don’t believe that, I’d strongly recommend a detailed examination of the posts on Seth Godin’s blog for the marketing community.

    I don’t know about you, but I try very hard to maintain my list of “bad” companies and to do NO business with them under any circumstances, even when it hurts. Bad behavior should be punished. Spam should be punished as severely as possible because it eats bandwidth for which we each pay.

  4. It’s had a tremendous effect from my perspective. Here is the traffic reduction for our mail firewall (in packets per second).
    Traffic graph:
    Now realize that our company has 50 employees. This botnet nightmare has caused our mail server to die many times before I added the “firewall” machine that just rudely disconnects machines on blacklists. Even then, the packet rate is so high from the thousands of machines trying to dump their garbage that the line is essentially useless for anything else. In the old days (a year ago), the PPS were so high it would bring our ISP’s old Cisco router down.
    Jim is absolutely correct. It’s not a victim less crime.

  5. This is great news, for many reasons, including less wasted time, money, bandwidth, and energy (I have seen reports about how much energy this would actually save due to servers being unused.)

    I must disagree on one point that you said. You wished that government got involved instead of the community, but I actually like the fact that a group of people caused this to happen instead of the government. I think this goes to show that when people come together to make something happen, it is for the best.

    Government being involved to regulate the internet is too slippery of a slope that I do not want to take a chance on. For this reason, I do not think it is a bad thing that the government stayed out and allowed the people to direct the change themselves.

  6. Right now I have 3000 messages in my spam folder and 60000 messages in my inbox! 😉 I will start from a clean scratch on January 1, 2009, and apply Dave Allen’s management system called Getting Things Done, once and for all. One thing is to keep your inbox clean and tidy! I use Gmail and it is easy to search for important messages and you could also use stars and labels. But I am interested in getting tips on new email programs now then I have got a PC machine too. Could you use the synchronization feature with other email programs than Outlook, if you want to update your mobile phone? (I have a smartphone Qtek / HTC.) I remember that I looked at a program called Eudora many years ago.

    In one way I wonder if sorting your email messages in different folders is the most efficient way of doing it, instead of searching as I am doing it now.

    I agree with Matt Stigall that it is good that the government didn’t step in. The bureaucrats are intruding in our lives too much as it is nowadays. If it would be a clear case of fraud or other criminal action on a specific individual then it would a different situation.

    I wonder if the solution is to charge a small fee if you want to send email messages. You could then use some kind of micro payment to the receiving party and the players that are responsible for the infrastructure. This is a futuristic scenario, but I think it could be good to think outside the box, instead of taking it for granted that email communication should be free.

    Please feel free to read my blog post from 2005, What’s in your inbox. (Click on the link “Martin Lindeskog” Says:) I appreciate and welcome an email message from YOU! 🙂

  7. Daily Picture Trends

    Yep, i saw that in my spam folder now there few mail that earlier.

  8. @ Chris, you’re right. The problem would go away if people just didn’t click on such stuff. I just read the other day that someone lost the family’s life savings to one of those Nigerian money scams — unbelievable!

    @ John, Wow! That’s an eye-opening graph. Thanks for sharing that with us.

    @ Matt, you raise a good point about Internet regulation — I sure don’t want more of that!

    — Anita

  9. I actually saw a bit of a spike in my spam folder… Interesting article though.

  10. Hard to believe that scale of spam could be generated by 2 operators! My, my….Kudos to the brave ones who took the action.

  11. Wow. This is such a good news.

    I’m a bit worried on the last statement about the community effort. It just proved that we really just can’t rely on the gov’t. . And yes, Matt I agree with you. There should be a strict implementation of an Internet regulation to improve our business processes.

  12. It’s great that someone actually took a stand and shut them down. This will be a nice little vacation from spammers but unfortunately it won’t last. They will always find a way around the obstacles we put out, afterall this is how they do business.

  13. The sad thing is that after a while spammers will find a way to get back online. It’s a whole industry. ISPs or mail servers play an important role in the process, but unless the whole infrastructure of illigal pharma, distribution centers, etc will be shut down, spammers will reappear.

  14. It is interesting that someone finally had the gumption to take this kind of action. But you are right that spammers will simply find a new host. The vacuum will be filled. I think the perceived consequences of shutting down any spammer is mitigated by the fact that more and more people are shifting away from email towards social networking connections like Facebook and Twitter … where spam is almost non existent. The rising generations hardly even use email anymore.

  15. I am thinking that the most important thing we can do about this is identify the ‘roots’ of these spammers? Where do they come from? Who’s financing them? If we all have identified them and take that necessary action towards them — then we can eventually eliminate SPAMS in our lives.

  16. This is good news, indeed. But the reality is that they’ll be back. I had not heard or read about this until now. Very eye opening and it seems to be affecting me, too. I’ve had less spam as well and I guess this is the reason. Isn’t it nice without them? I wish it could only last . . .

  17. I agree Luz. We should get rid of the ‘roots’..

  18. Today, I saw 0 spam in my inbox for I think the first time since 1996!!! Unbelievable!!!

    And I did see a big reduction in spam around the time this was originally posted (about a month and a half ago). This is great news overall.

    In September / October, I was averaging almost 200 spam messages a day. I didn’t change any of my filtering settings since. So I still can’t believe it, no spam at all today!!! Wow.