Page last updated at 10:41 GMT, Thursday, 13 November 2008

Spam plummets as gang leaves net

Generic spam message
Over 90% of email is spam

The closure of a web hosting firm that is believed to have had spam gangs as clients has led to a drastic reduction in junk mail.

Two US internet service providers have pulled the plug on the firm McColo following an investigation by the Washington Post newspaper.

Anti-spam firm Ironport has seen junk mail levels drop by 70% since McColo was taken offline on 11 November.

But, it warned, it will be a temporary respite from the menace of spam.

Plug pulled

"It is an unprecedented drop but will be a temporary outage as the networks move from North America to places where there is less scrutiny," said Jason Steer, a spokesman for Ironport.

The Washington Post has been gathering data on McColo for the past four months and passed the information to its internet service providers, Global Crossing and Hurricane Electric.

Both decided to pull the plug on the firm on Tuesday.

It is believed that it hosted gangs running botnets - networks of computers that have been taken over by criminals to send malicious software and spam.

According to MessageLabs, botnets are responsible for over 90% of spam.

Increasingly the tech industry is fighting back.

"All the US internet peering companies are under much more scrutiny. The authorities and the internet community have woken up to the problem," said Mr Steer.

But while it might make criminals think more carefully about what they do, it will not stop them, he thinks.

"Spam levels will come back to normal as we build up to Thanksgiving and Christmas," he said.

A recent study by computer scientists from the University of California, Berkeley and UC, San Diego (UCSD) found that spammers manage to turn a profit despite only getting one response to every 12.5m emails they send.

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