The holiday season has increased spam traffic by 20%, bringing a tsunami of spam to your computer. “What’s the cost of sending an e-mail? It’s almost free. So [spam] is a way of getting your message out at a low cost. The economic side is favorable,” says Brightmail president Enrique Salem. Spam made up 40% of all Internet e-mail traffic in 2002, up from just 8% in 2001.

Brightmail, which helps companies identify and block spam, processed over 16 billion spam messages in the past 30 days, a 21% increase over the number of spam messages blocked in the 30 days before Thanksgiving. Brightmail gets its data from decoy e-mail accounts that are specially designed to attract spam messages.

Out of more that 5.5 million spam messages, more than 75% were ads for consumer products, financial services, and adult content. The remaining 25% were online scams or offered information on health, spiritual, leisure and other topics.

The tsunami used to die down after New Years, but that may not happen this year. Salem says, “Last year, there was also a bump in the holiday season, but it didn’t drop off. It was sustained and then kept growing. People harvested e-mail addresses, then just kept using them throughout the year.”

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