The High Price of Spam

Trying to stem its flood already costs businesses and ISPs plenty. And the problem is only going to get worse

On Feb. 18 and 19, e-mail delivery to thousands of AT&T WorldNet customers slowed to a trickle. Some messages took as many as 24 hours to arrive -- an eternity in Internet time. The reason? Spam -- those irritating, unwanted e-mail messages that clog your in-box hawking everything from hot sex and Viagra to interest-free loans. WorldNet, which processes 15 million to 20 million messages each day, was suddenly besieged by millions of junk e-mail pitches -- just as one of its sophisticated anti-spam filters went on the blink. It was the first time that spam brought a large Internet service provider (ISP) to a virtual standstill.

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