The Internet Axis of Evil

Back in October I was thinking and writing a lot about spam and viruses. Both were in the news a lot back then and some industry observers were worried that these two evils were going to hold back the great promise of the Internet.

Then for some reason, I stopped thinking about spam and viruses so much and moved on to other areas of interest. But all of a sudden, these twin evils are back front and center in my mind. Mostly because while I was offline most of last week, my laptop was unable to update its virus definition files every night and I became vulnerable to a virus infection, which slammed me this morning. It took me most of the day to get my laptop back to health. And on top of that, my inbox is getting more spam these days than it has in a while.

I had thought that spam was getting under control. We use Positini and it works pretty well. I recently read that AOL has seen spam coming into its network drop by almost 25%. But Brightmail, a company that i have an investment in, shows that spam levels keep rising in almost linear fashion. If you extrapolate the Brightmail chart another two years, about 95% of all email on the Internet will be spam. That doesn’t seem possible, but the line in the Brightmail chart doesn’t appear to be non-linear at this point.

And then there’s the issue of viruses. I don’t know if viruses are getting worse or not. I spent a little time this afternoon surfing the net for data on that and came up empty. If any of you out there have trend data on virus activity, i’d love to see it. My personal experience of the last day leads me to believe that its not getting any better and that there’s still substantial virus risk even for protected users. I have a virus filter on my mail server and my laptop and still got infected. Even if virus activity isn’t increasing at the same rate as spam activity, i have a feeling that the viruses themselves are getting nastier.

What’s the point of all of this? There’s a downside to an open network. It’s the same downside that exists in an open society. There are a lot of nuts out there who want to do bad things (the evildoers as George W Bush calls them). And we all have to spend a lot of time and money making sure that we are protected from them. It’s a huge burden on an open network and an open society, but i see no way around it.