Sophos: Gates will be proved wrong about spam

Bill Gates' 2004 prediction that spam would be eradicated by 2006 is very unlikely to be fulfilled, Sophos has warned
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

Bill Gates' prediction of January 2004 that spam would be "a thing of the past" within two years has virtually no chance of coming true, according to security company Sophos this week.

Sophos warned on Tuesday that spam will continue to be a major problem in 2006.

"Sophos believes that the rumours of spam's death have been greatly exaggerated. The threat remains alive and kicking despite the increased action against spammers and constantly improving anti-spam software," Sophos said in its annual Security Threat Management report.

"There's no end in sight for spam," Sophos said.

Spam emails were a serious problem in 2005, with 'pump-and-dump' stock spam increasing the most.

"Pump-and-dump stock scams are one of the real growth areas. Bad guys buy a lot of penny stocks in a company, then spam out good news about it — perhaps that the company have developed some kind of wonder drug. Day traders think this sounds plausible, and begin to buy shares. When the share price begins to go up, the spammers sell their stock as quickly as possible," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos.

By November 2005, 13.5 percent of all spam received by Sophos was stock-related, a jump of 12.7 percentage points from 0.8 percent at the start of the year.

"It's a very effective way of making money," Cluley added.

Spam pushing medical products was the most popular in 2005, and made up about 40 percent of all spam during 2005. Pornographic spam retained its position as the second-most common type of junk email.

Gates told the World Economic Forum in January 2004 that Microsoft was pursuing a range of methods of fighting spam. This included better email filters, and simple puzzles that would have to be solved before an email could be sent.

However, experts were casting doubt on Gates' assertion back in 2004. A survey of IT security professionals conducted at the Infosecurity show in London in April 2004 revealed that more than 80 percent of people did not think that Bill Gates' pledge to eliminate spam within two years was realistic.

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