Over 90% of email is spam, says Spamhaus founder

The founder of Spamhaus says that over 90% of the world's email is spam. Steve Linford's estimates of spam levels are significantly higher than those of other spam monitoring firms in the IT security industry.

Speaking to OUT-LAW Radio, the weekly technology law podcast, Linford said that more than 90% of the world's 30 billion messages sent a day are spam. Email management company Postini's estimates for 2006 were that spam constitutes between 75% and 80% of spam.

"Spam is over 90% of all email traffic on the internet. The sheer volume of spam is massive," he said. "Internet users don't normally notice because the vast majority of internet service providers and networks normally use our service so most users don't notice that they're not receiving very much spam."

"If we were to turn our service off one day then the spam levels on the internet would literally bring the internet email system down," he said.

Spamhaus operates a list of domains from which it believes spam is being sent. ISPs subscribe to that list and block email from those addresses, severely curbing the numbers of unsolicited commercial emails that reach users' inboxes.

One company this month received an $11.8 million judgment against Spamhaus in an Illinois court. Linford told OUT-LAW Radio that the company will never defend such lawsuits.

"Because we get this from all over the world we don't defend ourselves in foreign courts," he said. "We tell them 'if you want to sue us come to Britain'. None of them ever have because Britain has 'loser pays'."

US company e360insight and its chief executive David Linhardt had sued Spamhaus in Illinois and the judge there found in e360's favour. The court judgment orders Spamhaus to stop taking any action to block or delay email sent by e360 unless it can show that the company has violated US law.

Linford said that an Illinois court has no jurisdiction over his London-based company and that a default judgment does not decide the case on its merits.

Linford founded Spamhaus when the ISP that he ran called Ultra Design was inundated with spam. "In the mid '90s it got absolutely flooded with spam and I decided to do something about it so for many years I simply funded Spamhaus myself."

He said that the lists operated by Spamhaus have 650 million users worldwide.

Hear the interview at OUT-LAW Radio