Christmas brings inbox overload

Email users need to stay vigilant over the festive season, as experts warn of possible virus attacks

In the run-up to Christmas the amount of spam email being sent and received looks set to soar as marketing machines and e-greetings firms go into seasonal overdrive.

As well as being inundated with the perennial spam emails about scams and financial services, computer users are also facing the added inbox burden brought about by Christmas.

Alarmingly, as we approach Christmas 2002, spam filtering firm Brightmail has released figures which show spam now accounts for 40 percent of all email. In the run-up to Christmas 2001, this figure was a comparatively meagre 8 percent, highlighting the extent of the problem this time around.

But as well as simple email overload and a further pre-Christmas drop in office productivity, antivirus vendor Sybari is warning network administrators of holiday offers and greetings that may also be carrying more than holiday cheer.

As with any email, especially those from an unknown source, there is also the threat of a malicious payload, such as a virus or worms.

And even though people will be winding down for Christmas, or nursing hangovers from the office party, extra vigilance is being called for at this busy time of year. Joe Licari, director of product management at Sybari, said: "During the holiday season, employees need to pay close attention to the email they get in their inbox."

Brightmail's statistics show the amount of spam is still rising month on month -- a fact which points to a bumper December for spam-plagued mail servers.

Brightmail reports that during November alone it intercepted more than 5.5 million spam emails, which is almost 3 percent up on the figure for October.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, adult emails -- typically promoting pornographic Web sites or services -- are the current growth area. In total, 15 percent of all unsolicited email is of a pornographic nature, while financial services is still out in front, accounting for a massive 32 percent, though this is falling.

With Christmas approaching, the marketing of gift ideas is set to boom, and during November product advertising accounted for 29 percent of all unsolicited mail.

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