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Bounced spam messages hammer corporate networks

A $5bn a year problem, claims self-serving survey

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More than 50 per cent of the largest US corporations have experienced mail service outages or delays because of bounced spam messages targeting their networks, according to a study by gateway security firm Ironport Systems.

Spammers commonly forge the sender's email address so that some poor innocent - rather than a spammer - has to cope with the load of bounced messages sent to invalid email addresses. According to Ironport's study, these bounced messages make up 11 per cent of all all "hostile mail", other categories of which include spam, viruses, and phishing emails.

Even though less than 0.5 per cent of bounced messages make it through to end users, the IT help desk costs associated with spam messages exceed $5bn a year. Most of these help desk calls are unnecessary because the message the end-user received was a misdirected bounce falsely claiming that a recipient had sent a virus-infected email to some unknown party.

Gauging the financial cost associated with computer viruses and spyware is a notoriously inexact science. Ironport's figures also need to be approached with caution because they're used to support a sales pitch for Ironport's Email Reputation (spam bounce) technology, doubtless a top piece of kit. A full copy of Ironport's survey can be obtained here (registration required). ®

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