Report: Tens of millions still opening junk e-mail

It's hard to believe, but people continue to open spam e-mail, setting themselves up for viruses, botnets, and other malfeasance.

Dave Rosenberg Co-founder, MuleSource
Dave Rosenberg has more than 15 years of technology and marketing experience that spans from Bell Labs to startup IPOs to open-source and cloud software companies. He is CEO and founder of Nodeable, co-founder of MuleSoft, and managing director for Hardy Way. He is an adviser to DataStax, IT Database, and Puppet Labs.
Dave Rosenberg
2 min read

In this day and age of technological advancement and digital lifestyles, it's incredible to me that nearly half of a recently surveyed audience opened junk e-mail (aka spam), intentionally.

According to an Ipsos Public Affairs Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG) survey report (PDF), tens of millions of users continue to respond to spam in ways that could leave them vulnerable to a malware infection or bot network.

The results of the survey show that nearly half of the users have opened spam, clicked on a link in spam, opened a spam attachment, replied, or forwarded it--all activities that leave consumers susceptible to fraud, phishing, identity theft, and infection.

Of those who intentionally opened spam, they did so to unsubscribe or complain to the sender or to see what would happen. Fifteen percent clicked to learn more about the products or services being offered.

Ipsos MAAWG survey

Among the survey's key findings:

  • Almost half of those who opened spam did so intentionally. Many wanted to unsubscribe or complain to the sender (25 percent), to see what would happen (18 percent), or were interested in the product (15 percent).
  • 11 percent of consumers have clicked on a link in spam, 8 percent have opened attachments, 4 percent have forwarded it, and 4 percent have replied to spam.
  • Men and e-mail users under 35 years, the same demographic groups who tend to consider themselves more experienced with e-mail security, are more likely to open or click on links or forward spam.
  • Among e-mail users under 35 years, 50 percent report having opened spam, compared to 38 percent of those over 35. Younger users also were more likely to have clicked on a link in spam (13 percent), compared to less than 10 percent of older consumers.
  • Consumers are most likely to hold their Internet or e-mail service provider most responsible for stopping viruses and malware.

Despite the efforts of software vendors such as Symantec and Microsoft, malware and infectious botnets remain a major headache for users.

Not surprisingly, the users who tended toward riskier behavior when it comes to spam were also the most likely to have been infected with a virus. However, slightly less than half of the users thought it not very or not at all likely they would be infected.

The findings were aligned with last year's U.S. survey when 8 out of 10 respondents said they are aware of malicious viruses that can control their computer, yet few believed they were susceptible to getting such a virus.