The number of spam emails rose by 59 per cent in September and October, an unprecedented increase. It has now reached the point at which a staggering 91 per cent of all email is spam, according to message management company Postini.
Some spam will get through to your inbox. The rest is blocked by your ISP and any anti-spam software on your network.
At any one moment, an estimated 50,000 computers are churning out unwanted messages. According to anti-spam organisation Spamhaus, 200 professional spam gangs are responsible for 80 per cent of the high volume of junk mail pumped out to email addresses every day.
Spamhaus has also named and shamed the main culprits, but apart from some localised legal action there is little in the way of effective global legislation to curb their activities.
So why the dramatic rise in junk mail levels? It is thought that the rise of botnets is largely to blame. A botnet is software installed on your PC without your knowledge via a spam message, which can then be controlled remotely by the originator from their PC.
A botnet can be made to send mail from your PC and, with increasing bandwith and processing power, it may be some time before you notice a degradation in normal performance. However, your IP address may have been blacklisted as a source of spam.
To check out if your PC is being used to send spam, first get your external IP address (www.whatsmyip.org/); then type it into the Spamhaus website (www.spamhaus.org/sbl/) to see if your PC has been listed as one that is known to be delivering spam. Prevention is better than cure so, to minimise the risk of receiving spam, make sure your email address doesn't appear on any websites, blogs or discussion forums.