Page last updated at 09:58 GMT, Tuesday, 1 July 2008 10:58 UK

Spam experiment overloads inboxes

Screen shot of spam
Spam still plagues inboxes

Surfing the web unprotected will leave the average web user with 70 spam messages each day, according to an experiment by security firm McAfee.

It invited 50 people from around the world, including five from the UK, to surf without spam filters.

The experiment revealed that UK residents are most likely to be targeted by the infamous Nigerian e-mails and "adult" spam.

One UK participant received 5,414 spam e-mails during the month-long trial.

US - 23,233
Brazil - 15,856
Italy - 15,610
Mexico - 12,229
UK - 11,965
Australia - 9,214
The Netherlands - 6,378
Spain - 5,419
France - 2,597
Germany - 2,331
Data supplied by McAfee

But the US still tops the global spam league.

Participants in the US received a total of 23,233 spam e-mails during the course of the experiment compared to 15,856 for the second most spammed country - Brazil.

In the UK, the five participants racked up 11,965 spam messages during the course of the experiment. Germany attracted the least spam, with just 2,331 junk messages.

The results show that spam is showing no signs of slowing down, although the opposite can be said of those receiving messages.

"Many of our participants noticed that their computers were slowing down. This means that while they were surfing, unbeknownst to them, websites were installing malware," said Guy Roberts, director of McAfee's labs in Europe.

Some 8% of the total spam received during the experiment was classified as phishing e-mails - messages that pose as a trustworthy source as a way of getting sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and bank account details.

"Spam is most definitely much more than a nuisance; it's a very real and fast-growing threat," said Mr Roberts.

Health and medicine
Adult services
Free stuff
IT related
Money making
Credit cards
Watch adverts
Data supplied by McAfee

The firm also noticed a shift away from mass spam to more targeted campaigns.

The most popular subject of spam remains financial - pre-approved loans or credit cards

The UK is the most likely country to be targeted by Nigerian spam e-mails, where someone supposedly from Nigeria contacts their target to inform that they are the beneficiary of a will in a bid to extract money from them.

The variety and amount of spam on offer surprised participants according to Dave De Walt, chief executive of McAfee.

"Our participants came from all walks of life, from all over the world and, given their interest to take part in the experiment, they were well aware of the problem. Despite this, they were all shocked by the sheer amount of spam they attracted," he said.

Dealing with it is going to be tricky though, he admitted.

"We can see from the experiment that spam is undeniably linked to cybercrime.

"However, it is such an immense problem and it's never going to go away. It's no longer a question of solving it but one of managing it," said Mr De Walt.

This story originally carried an accompanying video, which has been removed. The BBC did not mean to imply that membership of could lead to an increase in spam e-mail. We are sorry if this caused confusion.

Spam fighters lay down gauntlet
27 Jun 08 |  Technology
MySpace wins bumper spam payout
14 May 08 |  Technology
Spam reaches 30-year anniversary
02 May 08 |  Technology
E-mail is ruining my life!
07 Mar 08 |  Business


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific