Gartner later added it was talking about the amount of spam making it through to the network, which it said indicated that anti-spam technology had improved.
Anti-spam vendors insisted that the general level of spam was still rising: "It's a massive problem, especially considering that 70 percent of spam is generated by botnets," said Mark Sunner, chief technology officer at MessageLabs. Spammers know the FBI know who they are, but they just don't care."
Yesterday at Gartner's IT Security Summit, Gartner vice-president Victor Wheatman said that the level of spam getting through the network was falling and it was now possible to work again.
But BlackSpider, another anti-spam firm, agreed with Sunner that spam was an increasing problem.
"It's definitely going up," said Emma Dunstone, marketing manager for the firm. "It was 63 percent in August, and 61 percent before that."
Delegates at the conference said they too were sceptical of Gartner's results.
"A lot of people say it's hype," said David Brittain of Coors Brewers. "But we see a lot of spam and I would say it's higher than anyone has said so far. I know it's in the vendors' interests to say that, but that's what we see too."
But some delegates felt that the level of spam was also rising on the network too: "It's not true that spam is declining," said Stuart Moen, security manager for the Royal Bank of Scotland CBFM. "In February, spam was 20 percent of all mail in our company. Now it's 52 percent. We haven't changed vendors. We use MessageLabs."