The 411 on Text Msg Spam
With so many text messages flying around these days, they've become fertile territory for spammers trying to expand their reach.
Estimates vary greatly as to just how much of a problem spam text messaging has become. Cloudmark, a San Francisco company that makes anti-spam software for carriers, expects the amount of text spam to quadruple this year. Hugh McCartney, Cloudmark's CEO, paid a visit to several members of Congress and Justice Department staffers in December to warn them of the impending problem. By his estimates, about 5 percent of U.S. text messages are spam-related. He pointed to statistics about the problem overseas: In India, as much as 30 percent of all text messages sent are spam, he said. In China, he estimates that number has reached 50 percent.
McCartney said he got a surprised response on Capitol Hill. Regulation would probably not solve the problem, the legislators concluded. Instead, the wireless industry would have to step up their defenses against such spam.
The origins of text message spam are thought to be similar to those of email: automated computer-generated messages blitz hundreds or thousands of consumers at once. But the guesswork involved in targeting cellphone numbers is easier than randomly selecting e-mail addresses; while an e-mail address has a unique sequence of characters and a variable length, phone numbers are standard 10 digits.
Cellphones are also vulnerable to what are called blended smishing attacks, which combine text messages with phone numbers and Internet links. Fred Felman of MarkMonitor said he's seen some attacks send text messages asking consumers to click on a link on over their Internet connection or call a phone number that appears to be legitimate, all in an effort to get more information out of you.
Some spam experts don't think text message spam will ever reach the extreme levels of e-mail spam, mainly because wireless carriers have more control over what connects to their networks. But others speculate that spammers could find new opportunity as some carriers bow to industry pressure to open up their networks.
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