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Spam Is a Letters Game, a Study Finds

September 2, 2008

Sick of finding your e-mail inbox filled to the brim with spam? Well, here’s a thought: You could always change your name to Quincy or Xavier.

It’s an extreme strategy, to be sure, but it’ll probably work — as long as your first name determines the first letter in your e-mail address, that is. So says Richard Clayton, a security researcher at the University of Cambridge who analyzed e-mail traffic logs.

According to Mr. Clayton’s study, e-mail accounts that begin with common letters — like, say, S, P, A, and M — generally receive much more spam than accounts that start with W, X, or Y. The Peters and Patricias of the world can expect that more than 40 percent of their e-mail messages will be junk, but a Yancey using the same Internet provider may find only one in 10 messages to be spam.

The findings come as something of a surprise: According to PC World, conventional wisdom has held that it’s your e-mail provider, not your user name, that determines how much spam you get. But Mr. Clayton says many spammers simply guess at names to send junk mail to, so it makes sense that they’d focus on common letters, not obscure ones.

Author:  Brock Read


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