Technology Gains in Spam Fight, FTC Study Finds

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Spammers continue to harvest e-mail addresses from public areas of the Internet, but Internet service providers are using anti-spam technology to block the vast majority of spam sent to those addresses, the Federal Trade Commission said yesterday.


The FTC studied three aspects of spam: address harvesting, the effectiveness of spam filtering by ISPs and the effectiveness of using "masked" e-mail addresses as a way to prevent the harvesting of addresses.


To conduct the study, FTC staff members created 150 new undercover e-mail accounts, 50 at an ISP that uses no anti-spam filters and 50 each at two ISPs that use spam filters. They then posted the addresses on 50 Internet sites including message boards, blogs, chat rooms and USENET groups where spammers might go to harvest the addresses.


Though spammers continue to harvest addresses posted on Web sites, the study said, addresses posted in chat rooms, message boards, USENET groups and blogs were unlikely to be harvested.


After a five-week trial, e-mail addresses at the unfiltered ISP received 8,855 spam messages while the totals were 1,208 at one of the ISPs that used filtering technology and 422 via the other.


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