Spam threatens small businesses

Published February 13, 2006 12:01 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Small businesses are indeed the latest target for spammers. Most small businesses - unlike their big-business counterparts - have less sophisticated antispam protection, and spammers have shifted their tactics to take advantage of an easier target.

Unwanted e-mail is a threat to both productivity and security. Spam now makes up more than 50 percent of all enterprise e-mail and represents somewhere between 40 and 70 percent of all Internet traffic. Some data show that more than 30 percent of spam is generated by virus-infected computers, and more than 30 percent of viruses are propagated by spam.

The increasing interconnectedness of big businesses with small businesses, which are employing at best basic desktop antivirus defenses and very little spam protection, means that a large percentage of spam, virus and blended attacks are spawned by small businesses.

In addition to the annoying distractions and real productivity losses, spam that contains embedded viruses or worms are overwhelming network and system resources and undermining recent productivity gains from Internet innovations.

Recent data from IDC, which provides market intelligence for the information technology and telecommunications industries, show that small and medium-size businesses are especially vulnerable to spam attacks. Less than one-quarter of such businesses have any spam protection at all. And because small businesses are becoming more and more closely tied to large companies through supply chain integration, a small business' vulnerability may jeopardize the big business to which it is tied.

For this reason alone, entrepreneurs need to close gaps in their e-mail security systems. But if you still need convincing, here are some of the other ways spam can damage your business:

* Productivity losses. Spam distracts employees as they waste time filtering, sorting and deleting. Many spam messages also contain hyperlinks that tempt employees to click, which in some cases will launch viruses or worms.

* Blended threats. The worst intrusion is a spam flood with a virus or worm hidden inside an e-mail or lying in wait on a Web page. Such an attack could conceivably bring down an entire network.

* Storage constraints. New regulations force businesses of all sizes to maintain all enterprise e-mail for a certain period of time. The cost of storing spam e-mail and attachments dramatically reduces the efficiency e-mail offers.

* Liability. Lots of spam contains offensive material such as pornographic images. Not only can this lead to misuse of network resources, but it can also expose businesses to legal liabilities.

* Network congestion. Traditional firewalls are already straining to keep up with the increase of legitimate network traffic. Spam and virus attacks can overwhelm conventional defenses and bring a network to a standstill.

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