Researchers and IT managers confirm security vendors' claims that spam levels have spiked in the past month – some say by as much as 80% – and show no signs decreasing.
"There are enormous amounts of spam; it's shot up like crazy since the beginning of October," says John Levine, president of consulting firm Taughannock Networks and co-chair of the Internet Research Task Force's Anti-Spam Research Group.
"Earlier this year, I was seeing about 50,000 spam messages a day, now I'm seeing 100,000."
But a new breed of image spam, where email messages with text embedded in an image file, are evading spam filters, which can't recognize the words inside the image.
US-based hospital network, North Shore-LIJ Heath System has experienced an 80% increase in spam received in the last 45 days, most of which was image spam.
"We got slammed with a 50% increase [in spam] in one day,” said the healthcare provider’s system architect Steve Young. “For the past year-and-a-half none of my users ever got a spam message; in that first 48 hours [of image-spam blasts] there were 500 calls and over 1,000 complaints from users," he says.