May 3rd 1978 – The First Spam Email

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A notable anniversary slipped by at the weekend with the announcement that the very first ‘spam’ email was sent on May 3rd 1978. Long before the Internet became part of everyday life there was Arpanet developed by the US Department of Defense.

According to The Times on May 3rd 2008, it was a marketing person (oops!) at DEC who sent an unsolicited email to 393 other users of Arpanet. Now you can pick your estimate of how large the market for unsolicited commercial email has become – 9 out of every 10 emails is junk; Ferris Research calculates that the global cost of fighting potentially dangerous emails will hit $140 billion this year.

We all know that the technology to combat spam, viruses, trojans and the plethora of other forms of Internet and e-mail based attacks has grown increasingly sophisticated in recent years. Users are also much more aware of the threat to their online security and greatly concerned about identity theft … and yet, the human being is inquisitive by nature. Still too many computer users, particularly in organisations, perceive security as something stopping them from doing their job or downloading information they believe they are entitled to access.

The ingenuity of users in bypassing security technologies and procedures was brought home to me when reading the report produced by the UK Goverment and PriceWaterHouseCoopers at this year’s InfoSecurity Europe event. The Information Security Breaches Survey 2008 is well worth reading as it is a salutary reminder of how far we have come in terms of improving information security since May 3rd 1978 … and how far there is still to go!

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