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Have You Ever Wondered How SPAM Emails Can Be Profitable?

21 January, 2008 (09:13) | Business | By: Nick Dalton

If you ever go through your email SPAM folder, I’m sure you have wondered who would click on the links in such an email, let alone purchase anything. But there are people online from all walks of life, so maybe one in a million would. But still, how could that be a viable business that fuels the never ending flood of SPAM emails?

As an Internet business owner you’re probably used to the reputable email services run by companies like Aweber and Get Response, to name just two. They are very strict on their double opt-in requirements to lock out any spammers thinking about using their services. Their initial fees when you have a small list is a very reasonable $20 per month (approximately). But if you want to send emails to one million recipients were talking over $1,000 per month.

Now if you have a legitimate mailing list of one million people, then you have yourself quite an Internet business, and $1,000 per month to communicate with them is probably pocket change. But if you’re a spammer with a click through rate of one in a million, then these economics will definitely not work.

Where there is a business need and money to be made, there are sure to be companies willing to provide the needed services. The global market of the Internet almost guarantees it. Enter the botnet business model.

A botnet is a network of thousands, in some cases hundreds of thousands, of compromised computers. These machines have at some point in time been infected by a small program because the user clicked on a link in an email or visited a web site in the wrong neighborhood. When a computer has been compromised this way there are no visible signs of it. Gone are the days when virus writer wanted publicity or bragging rights for displaying silly messages on as many computers as possible, or caused them to erase their hard drives, or just grind processing to a halt. Now these infections keep a very low visible profile.

Once in a while the infected computers “call home” for instructions. A popular, and profitable, task for these computers is to send out SPAM emails on behalf of a paying customer. Previously it was not that difficult to trace SPAM emails back to the server sending them. ISP:s would then block all emails coming from that server IP address. With emails coming from a botnet, there could be a hundred thousand different computers sending ten emails each. This is impossible to block by IP address.

According to this article on Dark Reading a price war has broken out between competing botnets. And the going rate is $100 to send out one million SPAM emails. At this price level all it really does take is one sucker in a million to keep the “business” profitable.

With SPAM services on sale, prepare your email inbox for new avalanches of SPAM emails in the coming weeks. Gmail has one of the better SPAM filters in the free webmail category. For non-webmail accounts you can use the SpamArrest service.

Note: As an Internet business entrepreneur I’m always interested in learning more about other business models. Learning more about the business described in this post does not mean that I endorse marketing through SPAM emails, nor do I encourage you to join this “dark side” of the Internet.


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Time: February 21, 2008, 10:12

[...] easily be changed to a trojan keylogger or a program that turns your computer into a node in a botnet. Pretty bad stuff; so Google is right in warning users from visiting hacked [...]

Pingback from Don’t Get Caught By These Phishing Attempts
Time: March 3, 2008, 10:50

[...] anyone fall for these phishing scams? If it costs $100 to send out one million of these emails, and we assume that 1 in a 100 is sent to a recipient who actually has an account with the target [...]

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