MAAWG analyzes consumers and spam: The kind of relationship you don’t take home to mother

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The most important relationships can be hard to maintain but are worth every effort.

Then there are the relationships you don’t want to maintain at all – but once you find yourself in them, you realize you can’t get out.

In a recent study conducted for the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG), of which Commtouch is a proud member, the goal was to gain a better understanding of the relationship between consumers and the spam they receive. The research followed trends in awareness of consumers over bots and viruses and sought the answer to a question many of us at Commtouch often wonder ourselves: “Why did you click on that spam link?”

The study interviewed 800 general consumers within the United States and Canada, with half of the interviews conducted over the phone and the other half online.

So what did the respondents consider spam? Most defined spam as emails they receive which were never requested or end up in their spam folders. They base legitimate email messages on the sender’s name and the subject line.

While nearly half of all respondents claimed to have never clicked on a link or replied to an offer in a spam message, 12% of those who did respond claimed they did so because they were interested in the product or service being offered. An additional 6% of respondents said they clicked or replied because they were curious to see what would happen.

Respondents were asked what actions they take to prevent spam from landing in their inboxes. Most install prevention filters. About one-third avoid giving out their email addresses and one-fourth offer a second email address in situations when they think they may end up with spam.

Many of the interviewees know how to escape a spam-ridden relationship with a good defense mechanism: Nearly half said they never click anything that even resembles spam. Nearly all delete a spam message right away or after marking it as spam. Some even report it to the company, their ISP or email provider.

Turns out email users less than 35 years of age are better (in this case) at using protection. This demographic is less likely to give out their email addresses freely and more likely to employ a second email address for receiving junk. The respondents 24-34 years of age who have experienced a computer virus are also more cautious, aware of viruses, and more likely to repair the damage on their own.

But on the whole, when it comes to anti-virus software, respondents may have needed a reality check. While over one-fourth claimed to update their anti-virus software, about half believed their software updates itself. Even more disturbing is that 5% responded they don’t use or don’t update their anti-virus software at all. It is important to note that even with up-to-date antivirus software, the risk remains for many viruses to go undetected, as we discussed last month.

Eight out of ten interviewees claimed to be aware of viruses that control their computers, with only two out of ten saying it’s probable that their computers will actually become infected. Fourteen percent of consumers believe they won’t be affected by a bot and 41% consider it unlikely.

Those respondents who said their computers have been infected by a virus had different ways of handling it: one third relied on a friend or family member for repair or fixed it themselves. Twenty-two percent used a repair service and 11% reported the issue to their anti-virus company, email host or ISP. A third of interviewees said their computers have never been infected with a virus.

Perhaps the most shocking thing is that 21% of those surveyed said they take no actions at all to prevent spam. Talk about paving the way to a broken heart (or inbox)!

Download the entire MAAWG report in two parts – Part I and Part II. These are PDF files, so you must have a PDF reader in order to open them.

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