A team of US computer scientists have investigated how the business model spam works, ie. how profitable it is to send out spam or “illegal messages”. In order to conduct the study, seven scientists became spammers themselves.
The computer scientists from the university of California and UC San Diego used an offbeat method consisting of infiltrating the Storm-Botnet. The trojan horse “Storm worm” infects computers and transforms them into zombies which send out the spam.
The best method to analyse spam is to become a spammer
Under their control were over 75,800 zombie computers sending out two different spam campaigns. One used the method of distributing viruses over Storm, the other tried to lure users in visiting a manipulated website to buy drugs. Upon transmitting their credit card information the users only got an error message.
469 million junk mails were sent in total, the drug spam campaign being in the majority. After 26 days and around 350 million mails they recorded 28 buy attempts which translates into only 0,00001 percent. Nevertheless the computer scientists made over $100 per day. Projected onto the whole storm network the researchers estimate around a daily $7000 or over $2 million per year.
Read the full study:
Spamalytics: An Empirical Analysis of Spam Marketing Conversion (PDF)