GOT SPAM? IT'S THE TOP 'PRODUCT' OF THE YEAR
By STEPHEN LYNCH
Date: December 26, 2003
From worms to viruses, pitches for Viagra and scams from Nigeria, there was more debris than data traveling across the Internet in 2003. No wonder analyst firm Basex has made an unconventional choice for product of the year: Spam.
"It's gotten to the point where my mother was talking about it," said Jonathan Spira, Basex's chief analyst. "And she doesn't even use e-mail."
This was the worst year on record for viruses and spam, analysts agree, causing countless shutdowns, delays and losses. Basex estimates that spam alone accounted for $20 billion in lost productivity and clogged lines.
"Every day, Microsoft and AOL reject 2.4 million messages. Think of the bandwidth that affects," Spira said.
Virus hunters, meanwhile, spent every week trying to catch up to new malignant strains. The beginning of the year saw the Slammer virus bring down a 911 system and shut down ATMs.
By August, viruses made national headlines, when Blaster and Sobig jumped across Microsoft products and infected many corporate networks. Sobig is now considered the fastest-spreading virus in computer history, causing an estimated $36.1 billion in damages.
Microsoft, stung by clients who moved critical data to Unix servers, instituted new protocols because of Sobig, updating their products on a monthly schedule.
Many companies have linked their anti-spam and anti-virus strategies, because the two "have a symbiotic relationship," Spira explained. "There are viruses designed to propagate more spam, and spam that spread viruses."
This month, the government and companies have pushed to fix the infestation. Congress passed an anti-spam law, while Microsoft put a bounty on the creator of viruses and sued - along with Attorney General Elliot Spitzer - notorious spam spreaders.
But Spira believes that until foreign governments crack down on spam and viruses as well, 2004 could be just as bad.
"We're starting to make some headway," he said. "But it's going to get worse before it gets better."
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