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Spammers earn millions and cause damages of billions

Experts of the AntiSpam project have made another attempt to estimate earnings of Russian spammers
Experts of the AntiSpam project carried out under the aegis of the Russian Committee of UNESCO Information for All Program (IFAP.ru) have made another attempt to estimate earnings of Russian spammers. According to data published in Spam Filtration: Field Research, Russian spammers earn about $2 million a year. But experts for counteraction to spam doubt the figure is true and the method of estimation is correct; they are sure that spammers earn much more.

AntiSpam experts studied the total amount of spam sent on every email of the IFAP.ru domain. The study revealed that spam made up 1,894 to 2,614 messages a month. On average, 170 messages of the total amount came from abroad and 230 messages were advertising of services that spammers offer. As based upon the study, AntiSpam experts arrived at a conclusion that Russian spammers get orders for 1,854 mailing a month on average. On condition that mailing of one million of advertising emails costs 2-3 thousand rubles in general, it turns out that Russian spammers earn about 4.6 million rubles a month or over 55 million rubles a year.

Director General of Ashmanov and Partners Co. Igor Ashmanov says today there is no effective method to estimate real earnings of spammers. The company was developing and running the Spamtest system until last July. The company's estimates over 2003 demonstrate that annual income of spammers made up $2-3 million, and it is unlikely that currently spammers earn less.

Igor Ashmanov says the AntiSpam system is ineffective. "Two thousand of spam messages a month is not the true figure," Ashmanov told PRAVDA.Ru. He adds that linguistic systems of Ashmanov and Partners Co. track out over 20 million of spam messages a day on the Mail.ru national mail service. SpamTest filters about 40 million of spam messages a day in Russia on the whole. Besides, many of Russian spammers work for the West and thus get much more. It is difficult to estimate how much such earnings make up.

Russia's leading anti-spam expert Anna Vlasova says that 2-3 thousand rubles is the sum paid on average for mailing spam messages to one million of emails. Now, she says, spammer email messages to more than one million of emails.

SpamTest filtered over 20 million of spam messages offering "pens with vanishing ink" at the beginning of 2004. It means that a client paid at least 40 thousand rubles (over $1,000) for the spam mailing, and this is much more than is stated in the AntiSpam estimates. Anna Vlasova says it is absolutely wrong to make calculation of spam mailing as based upon the mail list of just one million of emails.

Anna Vlasova also doubts that average data received after filtering spam messages on one domain only will be reliable. She says that analysis and comparison of messages on different domains show that spam messages may be ordered just for a couple of public mailing services (mail.ru and yandex.ru, for example); it means that no messages of the type will be emailed to other domains at all. What is more, the expert adds, there are regional spam advertising and other methods for targeting messages. "Even if we employ the most primitive method to calculate earnings of spammers we will see that they earn more than 55 million rubles declared in the AntiSpam research," Anna Vlasova says.
 
But all experts agree tat earnings of spammers are incommensurable with the damage their messages cause.

AntiSpam coordinator Yeugeny Altovsky says that in addition to the sum of 55 million rubles spammers also get enough for emailing spam for foreign customers. "Spammers earn 55 million but the damage they cause Russians makes up at least 850 million rubles. In other words, the financial efficiency of spammers is not more than 7 per cent," Yeugey Altovsky says.

Igor Ashmanov agrees with the above-mentioned statement. Last year, the Russian Ministry for Communications and Information estimated the damage caused by spammers at the rate of $30 million. At the same time, Ashmanov and Partners Co. say it made up 200 million euro. "As compared with the damage they cause, spammers earn just miserable pennies," Ashmanov told PRAVDA.Ru.

Sergey Malinin

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