by Casey Lynn
Contributing Writer, [GAS]
A new study out of UC Berkeley and UCSD took a close look at the economic viability of junk email. For one month, seven computer scientists infiltrated a large-scale spam network and did some mass mailing of their own. They ran two fake spam campaigns–one that mimicked the way a virus spreads, and another that tried to tempt people to buy a drug to boost their libido. Don’t worry, no actual gullibles were harmed during the course of this study; the fake pharmaceutical site displayed an error message when someone tried to submit a credit card number.
The results? 26 days, 350 million emails… 28 “sales.” An impressive response rate of 0.00001%!
Still, the researchers, upon scaling this up to account for the enormity of the spam network’s normal operations, estimated that they’re netting about $3.5 million a year. This is actually a tighter profit margin than most people were assuming, and the researchers suggest that the spammers may, therefore, be “economically susceptible to new defenses.”
Personally, I feel like spam filters have gotten so good that anyone who still clicks on spam deserves what they get. I’d say that a piece of spam makes it through Gmail’s filter to me about… oh, once a month, maybe. And if you’re reading that email about increasing your libido because you really need your libido increased and you trust a spammer more than real research, then you also deserve what you get.
I did, however, click on the recipe for Creamy Spam Broccoli Casserole that Google Ads helpfully suggested when I pulled up my spam folder to take the screenshot seen above. I don’t think I’ll be whipping that up any time soon… but I did see an email this morning claiming that spam boosts your libido…