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1/14/2004
04:29 PM
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Trends In Spam: Is Viagra Making Porn Less Relevant?

The spam industry is maturing like a good baby boomer. It's increasingly focused on Viagra and mortgage rates rather than nude women.

Health-care products such as Viagra and diet pills made up 40.8% of all spam in December, according to E-mail security and management company Clearswift Ltd. The company explains that personal inadequacies gravitate toward convenience and anonymity.

Whether Viagra sales have any bearing on the preeminence of pornographic spam remains open to question. "Pornography has dropped for three or four months in a row, based on what we've seen," says Greg Hampton, VP of U.S. marketing for Clearswift. "But the financial category has continued to grow, actually pretty dramatically," Hampton says. "Those spams must be working if they're growing, and that encourages spammers to do more of that type."

However, Clearswift's analysis differs markedly from that of another anti-spam company. According to E-mail software maker Brightmail Inc., health-care-related spam comprised only 6% of the messages it analyzed in December.

The two companies offer more closely aligned statistics for finance-related spam. Clearswift says 21.6% of December's spam harvest hawked financial products or services. Brightmail puts it at 18%.

Laura Atkins, partner in the anti-spam software and consulting firm Word to the Wise, says spam messages selling health-related products and financial services are profitable.

"Viagra sells," Atkins says. "They [spammers] make millions" as intermediaries. Mortgage marketers make their money selling customer leads to banks, which often don't realize they're doing business with spammers.

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