Spam is mostly noise and that makes measuring it very difficult

Posted by   Martijn Grooten on   Sep 3, 2018

A recent blog post published by Recorded Future looked at the possible effect of the GDPR on the volume of spam and concludes there has been no noticeable impact.

The question behind the post is a valid one: more privacy-friendly WHOIS records, inspired by the EU's data protection regulation, could make it easier for spammers to hide their true identities. However, Recorded Future reports that 90 days after the GDPR came into effect, there have been no significant changes in either the volume of spam or that of domain registrations, apart from a likely seasonal small decline in both.

I do not think this is very surprising. While more privacy-friendly WHOIS records may be beneficial to those email senders operating on the border of what is permissible, the vast majority of spam is sent via botnets. These spam messages use either fake or compromised domain names, or use domains registered using fake credentials. For a botnet spammer, the GDPR is as much of a concern as a "do not entry" sign is for a bank robber.

But even if we had seen an uptick in the volume of spam, it would have been premature to attribute it to the GDPR.

Spam is notoriously volatile. Changes on a day-by-day or month-by-month basis can sometimes be attributed to specific events, such as holidays, a botnet takedown, or shifts from or to other malware infection methods. Often though, there is no identifiable reason for what can very big changes in the volume of spam.

On top of that, spam is very hard to measure. Spammers tend to favour volume over delivery rates and thus they are pretty careless who they send their emails to. This means that a campaign can, by chance, do a very good job at avoiding certain kinds of spam traps, while other traps actually see a disproportionately large number of messages from the same campaign.

But perhaps none of this matters very much. The vast majority of spam ends up getting blocked at one of various places in the delivery chain. An increase in volume doesn't always result in more spam emails in people's inboxes. And that, ultimately, is what matters.

gdpr_preferenceemail.png

twitter.png
fb.png
linkedin.png
hackernews.png
reddit.png

 

Latest posts:

VB2019 paper: Fantastic Information and Where to Find it: A guidebook to open-source OT reconnaissance

A VB2019 paper by FireEye researcher Daniel Kapellmann Zafra explained how open source intelligence (OSINT) can be used to learn crucial details of the inner workings of many a system. Today we publish Daniel's paper and the recording of his…

VB2019 paper: Different ways to cook a crab: GandCrab Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) analysed in depth

Though active for not much longer than a year, GandCrab had been one of the most successful ransomware operations. In a paper presented at VB2019 in London, McAfee researchers John Fokker and Alexandre Mundo looked at the malware code, its evolution…

VB2019 paper: Domestic Kitten: an Iranian surveillance program

At VB2019 in London, Check Point researchers Aseel Kayal and Lotem Finkelstein presented a paper detailing an Iranian operation they named 'Domestic Kitten' that used Android apps for targeted surveillance. Today we publish their paper and the video…

VB2019 video: Discretion in APT: recent APT attack on crypto exchange employees

At VB2019 in London, LINE's HeungSoo Kang explained how cryptocurrency exchanges had been attacked using Firefox zero-days. Today, we publish the video of his presentation.

VB2019 paper: DNS on fire

In a paper presented at VB2019, Cisco Talos researchers Warren Mercer and Paul Rascagneres looked at two recent attacks against DNS infrastructure: DNSpionage and Sea Turtle. Today we publish their paper and the recording of their presentation.

We have placed cookies on your device in order to improve the functionality of this site, as outlined in our cookies policy. However, you may delete and block all cookies from this site and your use of the site will be unaffected. By continuing to browse this site, you are agreeing to Virus Bulletin's use of data as outlined in our privacy policy.