Tag: spam

More room for email marketing, less room for spam: spam rates drop 25% in 2 years

email_marketing_spam_canGood news everyone! Over the past two years, spam levels have dropped about 25%! That’s great news for email marketing because this gives room for the messages people truly want to arrive in their inbox! It has been dropping for a while, but the decline is now quite significant.

One of the main reasons spam has been dropping is because of the cleaning up of botnets, which play(ed) a significant role in sending out large quantities (billions and billions) of spam messages.


Another reason is tougher laws and subsequent list checking and data cross-referencing, which enables people to clean out and shut out the bots as well as having email marketers living on the edge change their ways and become law abiding citizens. Don’t forget DMARC as well, the newly introduced standard of domain authentication.

Third, spam filters have really matured in recent years, with some even becoming very tight on even legitimate email. This is sadly a result of spam still finding ways into the inbox sometimes: but if it can be beaten down into a trickle or even stopped altogether, spammers will leave this area of crime and go for something else. Yaay!

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Botnet pushing out 18% of all spam taken offline

botnet_email_spamA botnet known as ‘Grum‘, responsible for sending out 18% of all spam has been taken offline by Atif Mushtaq from the malware intelligence lab called FireEye. After Cutwail and Lethic, it was the third most active botnet in the world.

Atif has posted the main characteristics of Grum in a blog post:

  1. Grum has two different types of CnC servers:
    • CnCs that are responsible for serving configuration files and initial registration. I would refer to them as master CnCs.
    • CnCs that serve spam related activities. I would refer to them as secondary CnCs.
  2. Grum uses hard-code IP addresses instead of domain names.
  3. Grum is divided into small segments i.e., different malware builds talk to their own assigned set of CnCs.
  4. There is no fallback mechanism once the main and secondary CnCs are down. That particular segment will be without a master. Read more

Updated: Botnet hits Android smartphones, sends spam from Yahoo accounts?

botnet_on_smartphones_email_spamCompromised Yahoo accounts have been used to send out spam by a botnet recently. In this case it’s not a ‘regular ol’ botnet’ living on zombie computers, but one operating out of Android powered smartphones.

A blogger on the Microsoft blogs named tzink noted this recently, with a lot of commenters posting about the same happening to them. The originating countries can be traced back due to the IPs used: they were Chile, Indonesia, Lebanon, Oman, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Ukraine and Venezuela.

A quote:

All of these message are sent from Android devices.  We’ve all heard the rumors, but this is the first time I have seen it – a spammer has control of a botnet that lives on Android devices.  These devices login to the user’s Yahoo Mail account and send spam.


Apparently the developing world citizens are less strict about security on their smartphones. In this case tzink suspects that malicious software disguised as a free app is is part of the botnet.

However, one commenter thinks it’s just the malicious Android app itself signing up for new Yahoo accounts, and not using existing Yahoo email accounts:

With all of the samples I’ve seen, the Yahoo! email address follows the same format (FirstnameLastname followed be 2 numeric characters @yahoo.com). This would suggest it is simply a botnet which has circumvented the Yahoo! Android sign-up API to create new accounts rather than those being peoples actual email addresses.


Spam filters will have a tougher time distinguishing good email from bad email, if these email are being sent from/by normally legitimate Yahoo email accounts. They should be able to filter by content though, as tzink notes that the spam message content

Email spam volume has been dropping in recent times, but this jump into the smartphone arena by a botnet makes it clear that we’re not yet finished with the spam game.

Remember, there’s always a way to handle spam: don’t forget to read ‘Help, I’ve received spam from $company! What to do now?

Update 1: according to a post on The Verge, Google denies that Android smartphones have been compromised and a botnet is sending out the emails.

From the end of that article:

There’s still a definite possibility that this is indeed an Android botnet of some sort, and both researchers claim the evidence points that direction, but we’re far less certain than we were before, and a little less trusting, too.

The spam was supposedly sent using a spoofed mobile email signature, bypassing spam filters. Because of that mobile email signature, the messages are/were considered to be coming from Android smartphones, but that is now uncertain.

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Ongage: improving micro-deliverability to maximize inbox placement

Recently Ongage announced a new solution to maximize inbox placement using multiple ESPs. The overall reputation of an ESP can be very good (upwards of 95%) but certain domain reputation can be better with one, and other domain reputation better with the other.

Ongage now offers the option (called OngageConnect) to send through multiple ESPs, therefor maximizing inbox placement.

A quote from the solution page:

This technology provides marketers the ability to leverage the combined strengths of multiple ESPs, and offers them the freedom and flexibility to select the best matching and performing ESP, for each geographic region, recipient domain (aol.com, hotmail.co.uk, yahoo.fr, gmx.de, gmail.com, etc.), campaign and segment.

It sounds pretty cool, but Joshua Baer wrote on deliverability.com that he’s not too sure about the service. He’s all for innovation and improving list performance, but believes this should be about the sender’s reputation, not the ESP’s reputation. He’s also afraid of spammers abusing the service. TechCrunch wrote about it as well.

Here’s a screenshot of the ESP report in the interface of OngageConnect:


The profit calculator shows the following:


The answer to the above profit percentage after using the service: “It depends.” When you already have a good list and are not a high-volume, many domains sender, this service would probably be overkill.

However, as I understand it, the service looks interesting to say the least and might be a nice innovation in the email marketing industry: let’s hope it will be a good tool for email marketers trying to maximize inbox placement. This, of course, after they made sure the message is actually relevant to the receiver…

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Email deliverability rates dropped in second half 2011, says Return Path

If you’re having some deliverability issues, you are probably not alone. Email deliverability rate has dropped in the second half of 2011 according to Return Path. Calling it inbox placement rate, the percentage of IPR has dropped from an average of 80% (one in five has gone missing) to an average of 76,5% globally. This means almost one in four emails that has been sent has not been reported as delivered.

One of the key reasons of the dropping deliverability rates has been the fact that ISPs are putting more weight behind reputation metrics and enforcing strict rules.

Here’s a chart with all the global regions and their respective deliverability rates:

It shows that inbox placement rates are highest in North America and Europe, Middle East and Africa while Asia Pacific and Central & Latin America sees the lowest inbox placement rates.

With general email spam dropping a lot lately (from 300 billion to 30 billion daily), it seems that crowded inboxes due to commercial/spam messages are becoming a thing of the past. Have ISPs and webmail providers like Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo tightened their spam filters too much?

Have you seen a decline in your delivery rate? More people asking where the newsletter is you normally send? Or as an end user of for instance Gmail or Hotmail, have you noticed more messages ending up in the spam folder, even when they weren’t spam?

It seems too much of a coincidence (I don’t believe in coincidence, but in this case…) that Gmail has posted an article on their official blog detailing the reasons why messages have ended up in your spam folder.

Just over a month ago, Gmail has tightened their spam filters, with quite some messages not reaching the inbox anymore as a result, another post on Return Path’s blog tells.

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