"Two years from now, spam will be solved."
“The developments in information technology will result in a solution that accurately identifies the sender of the spam,” said Bill Gates at the 2004 World Economic Forum in Davos. He asserted that spam would be a thing of the past. However, ten years after his remarks, spam continues to thrive both as a terrible headache and a prosperous business.
Spam mails are the pollution of the digital era and they continue to invade our society. A few years ago, spam mails were typically straight-forward advertisements. Now they have evolved into more intelligent and elusive forms of phishing, pharming, vishing, and smishing. Spam is no longer just a minor inconvenience in daily life. It has become a breeding ground for various forms of criminal activity. Without resolving this problem, Korea’s proud title of “IT Power” will ultimately falter.
Last April, global IT security vendor Kaspersky Lab released a spam report that showed that Korea accounts for 13.7% of world spam, only after the United States (16.9%) and China (14.4%). In Europe, 50.9% of spam originates from Korea. This means the amount of spam originating from Korea has recently rebounded from a period of decline. Critics point out that at this rate, Korea will not only lead in high-speed Internet and smartphone distribution, but also in the distribution of spam.
“Professional spammers continue to thrive, because they are profitable even if only a very small portion of their recipients respond to the campaign,” said Oh Chi-young, CEO of Jiransoft. “Spam filters are becoming more sophisticated, but spam mails are also becoming more intelligent,” he added.
In 2H 2012, an average cellphone holder received 0.22 spam messages a day, according to the Korea Communications Commission. This is a slight decline from 0.26 messages during the similar period of the previous year. However, ‘malignant spam’ regarding loans (24.8%), gambling (22.4%), and adult content (18.6%) persisted as a serious problem in the majority of spam messages.
Looking at the source of spam messages, 55.1% of all spam traced back to bulk messaging services operated by telecommunication companies. Web messaging services and direct messaging via cellphones only accounted for 24.1% and 12.0% of spam, respectively. This shows that the majority of spammers are sending out messages legally, under contract with telecommunication companies. Critics point out that, in effect, telecommunications companies are overlooking spam activities via bulk messaging services in order to protect their own revenue stream.
Consumer behavior in response to spam is also a significant problem. In 2H 2012, 66.7% of KT users and 56.8% of SK Telecom users were subscribed to a spam filter service. Only 8.3% of LG U+ users were subscribed. This means that approximately half of the Korean population does not use any spam filter services. This measurement follows a policy change at the end of last year that required new users to subscribe to a spam filter service, which implies the subscription rate is even lower among older users.