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The volume of pornographic images sent as email attachments is declining, according to MessageLabs.

The email filtering firm recorded one pornographic or otherwise inappropriate email for every 4,756 messages sent through its service for the six months from March – August 2004. In the same period last year, the ratio was one in 1,357 (0.07 per cent). These figures refer to porno emails and the like sent to MessageLabs customers by their mates not those sent by spammers, Paul Wood, chief information analyst at MessageLabs, explained.

Inappropriate content - which includes pornography, cartoons, jokes, greetings cards and other non-work related material - can waste valuable bandwidth and offend employees. In many instances, such images are in violation of corporate acceptable usage policies, MessageLabs says.

Mark Sunner, chief technology officer at MessageLabs, said a possible explanation for the drop is "growing enforcement of corporate governance requirements. For companies that use email to conduct critical business transactions and communications, corporate governance can be a great concern. We are now seeing a number of organisations using email management solutions to help ensure compliance and reduce risk. The effect of this could be one of the reasons why fewer inappropriate images are being sent via email."

MessageLabs also recorded a drop in the spam and viruses in the email messages it scanned last month. Of all email scanned by MessageLabs’ Anti-Spam service in August 2004, 84.2 per cent was categorised as spam, compared to 94.5 per cent during July 2004. And 6.9 per cent of the emails scanned by MessageLabs’ Anti-Virus service were identified as virus-infected during August, a decrease from the 7.3 per cent intercepted during July.

According to Sunner, the summer months are "often a quiet time for virus and spam distribution – despite exceptions like last August’s SoBig-F virus. Virus activity tends to be cyclical, with periods of stability punctuated by outbreaks of varying significance."

But what about the fall in spam? MessageLabs reckons a recent US cybercrime crackdown - Operation Web Snare - in which more than 150 people were arrested for various offences, may have taken some spammers offline, or prompted others into suspending operations temporarily. ®

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