Around 85% of all mail received by small and medium-sized companies is either unsolicited commercial email or outright spam, according to a study carried out by AXS Guard, a Mechelen-based internet security organisation, at a cost to the government of around €500 million. Unsolicited commercial email is considered slightly less bothersome, since it does have what appears to be a genuine business purpose, albeit photo prints from China. Spam, on the other hand, ranges from personal contacts from total strangers to even more personal contacts from total strangers looking for marriage or something of the sort.
In a test of 500 small and medium-sized Belgian companies, AXS reports in De Tijd, a total of 33 million mails were screened, with the majority being sent with bad intent. Not only did the sender seek financial gain, the aim was also destructive: for example crippling the victim’s system by use of malware or ransomware, where the victim is forced to transfer a sum of money to have his own computer unlocked.
One company chosen as representative of the sample, employing 67 people, received in a month a total of 68,000 emails which were either unsolicited or outright malicious. Most email systems have their own spam filters and experts advise using them to the full. For businesses, given the time it even takes to read the titles of more than 1,000 useless emails a day before deleting, stronger measures are advised.
Deleting is, however, necessary, AXS said. A system like Gmail can consign a suspected spam email to the Bin for 30 days, to allow you to check if it may in fact be genuine. If not, however, it can be infecting your computer during the time which remains. Regular checking is the rule, as well as marking every spam email as such (systems differ) so that everything coming from that domain with similar language can be binned immediately.
And if Grandma tends to send emails in ALL-CAPS with titles like GUESS WHAT I JUST FOUND OUT, a quiet word in her ear will usually be enough of a security measure. In most cases.