When was the last time that you received an e-mail offering you a discount on pharmaceutical products? If you are using a corporate e-mail system or one of the larger Internet e-mail providers, the chances are it was a while ago. And yet until recently over 90% of e-mail sent was spam.
This is something that changed last year with spam dropping to only 75% by the end of 2011.
So where did those spammers go? Did they get an attack of social conscience? The evidence would seem to say not. We still saw an increase in the number of attacks and malware variants last year.
What seems to have changed is the mechanism that is being used to distribute spam and malicious software. There has been a rise in the use of social media to distribute these attacks as spammers exploit the web of trust that individuals have in social media. After spam awareness campaigns, we are much more likely to click on a link posted by a friend to a social network than to open an attachment in an e-mail. It was inevitable that spammers would target the greater level of trust we have in social networks but is this shift actually the sign of something greater?
Look at the way a teenager communicates. They rarely use e-mail, instead choosing to communicate through more immediate channels such as instant messaging and social networks. So are we seeing the beginning of the end for e-mail? Is the move of spammers to social media not just to exploit an easier target but a move to a new dominant communication mechanism? It’s certainly going to be interesting to watch this develop over the coming years.