Clicking on spam must be the human equivalent of moths being irrevocably drawn to a flame: We know it’s bad, but we just can’t stop ourselves.
This phenomenon is borne out by a recent survey by the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group, which sports the unwieldy acronym of MAAWG. The survey, which covered North America and Europe, found that even though 80 percent of e-mails users are aware of the existence of bots, tens of millions leave themselves open to the dangers of malware infections by clicking on spam.
The survey found that half of the e-mail users said they opened spam, clicked on a link in spam, opened a spam attachment, and replied or forwarded spam. All of which leaves users vulnerable to fraud, phishing, ID theft and infection.
And why do most users click on spam when they know that danger lurks? The survey found that most fell into the “It won’t happen to me syndrome,” with only one-third believing they were susceptible to an infection.
"Consumers need to understand they are not powerless bystanders. They can play a key role in standing up to spammers by not engaging and just marking their emails as junk," said Michael O'Reirdan, MAAWG chairman. "When consumers respond to spam or click on links in junk mail, they often set themselves up for fraud or to have their computers compromised by criminals who use them to deliver more spam, spread viruses and launch cyber attacks.”
Among the survey's key findings:
- Almost half of those who opened spam did so intentionally for the following reasons: most wanted to unsubscribe or complain to the sender (25 percent); to see what would happen (18 percent); or were interested in the product (15 percent).
- Overall, 11 percent of consumers have clicked on a link in spam, 8 percent have opened attachments, 4 percent have forwarded it and 4 percent have replied to spam.
- This one is probably not news to cable operators and other ISPs, but consumers are most likely to hold their Internet or e-mail service provider the most responsible for stopping viruses and malware. Only 48 percent see themselves as most responsible.
- In terms of anti-virus effectiveness, consumers ranked themselves ahead of all others, except for anti-virus vendors: 56 percent of consumers rated their own ability to stop malware and 67 percent rated that of anti-virus vendors' as very or fairly good. Government agencies, consumer advocacy agencies and social networking sites were among those rated the worst.
Both the survey's key findings and the full report are available at the MAAWG Web site.
Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, Comcast, and Verizon are members of MAAWG’s board of directors.