How Do Spammers Make Money?

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We all hate spam, and it keeps on coming. But just how do spammers make money, and is it the fabled millions people have claimed? A new study carried out earlier this year by computer scientists from University of California, Berkeley and UC, San Diego saw the seven-strong team hijack part of the Storm botnet to discover the answers, according to the BBC.

They created several “proxy bots” between the Storm control system and hijacked PCs, and used them to control 75,869 computers, then created their own fake spam which was sent out.

One of the fake campaigns was for a herbal libido-enhancing remedy, sold through a non-existent pharmacy. Anyone who actually clicked on the pharmacy site found it didn’t work.

So what results did the study bring? They averaged one response for every 12.5 million messages.

"After 26 days, and almost 350 million e-mail messages, only 28 sales resulted," wrote the researchers.

"Taken together, these conversions would have resulted in revenues of $2,731.88—a bit over $100 a day for the measurement period."

From that they were able to extrapolate that major spammers are making around $7,000 a day, or $2 million a year.

"The profit margin for spam may be meager enough that spammers must be sensitive to the details of how their campaigns are run and are economically susceptible to new defenses," the researchers concluded.