The month of May marked the first time that commercial e-mail comprised 51 percent of all messages received by workers, according to MessageLabs, a provider of managed e-mail security services. MessageLabs only analyzed 133.9 million messages sent to its global network of business customers.
"The volume of spam now facing computer users every day has now far surpassed the point of being a nuisance and is now causing significant productivity losses and (information technology) costs at businesses across the world," MessageLabs Chief Technology Officer Mark Sunner said in a statement.
Internet service providers and lawmakers in recent months have considered a range of measures for reducing spam, including the use of new technology, industry self-regulation and legislation. But those efforts may not pay off for two or three years, executives say.
Ryan Hamlin, head of Microsoft's antispam technology and strategy group, said at recent industry gathering that spam will likely continue to outpace legitimate e-mail in 2003. But he added that through recent efforts to curb spam, including potential federal legislation that criminalizes junk mail forgery, some relief is expected in 2004 or 2005.
MessageLabs uses a global network of "control towers" that filter e-mail for viruses and unwanted solicitations. The network--which spans the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, and Hong Kong--is centrally managed and scans millions of messages each day.
MessageLabs has more than 6,000 business customers, including the British government, The Bank of England, Conde Nast Publications and Fujitsu.