U.K. businesses shrug off spam

As the European Union (EU) pushes member states to implement laws to control spam (unsolicited e-mail), it seems that many businesses in the U.K., where the laws have been put in place, don't see it as a big problem.

The U.K. Department of Trade and Industry's (DTI's) biennial Information Security Breaches Survey, conducted by a consortium led by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PWC), found that while nearly all U.K. businesses receive spam, the amount they receive varies and only one in 10 companies consider it a serious problem, PWC said in a statement on Thursday.

The report comes the same day the EU sent a final warning to eight member states, telling them that they must include EU-wide laws on controlling spam in their national laws.

While the U.K. has already adopted the EU spam law, the DTI found that only one in five companies have bothered with filtering products, and a third of businesses don't consider spam an issue. It was unclear whether this was due to the law having been effective or unnecessary in the U.K.

While the number of U.K. companies using e-mail as an "important business communications channel" rose from 80 percent two years ago to 93 percent now, a third of the companies questioned don't consider spam a problem. Small businesses, in particular, are not keen to spend money on filtering software. Less than half, 44 percent, of large U.K. businesses have spam filters in place, and overall the figure is 20 percent.

However, 55 percent of the companies polled said that the amount of spam they receive is increasing, and it may become a problem in future, PWC said.

Kit Constable, infrastructure manager for U.K.-based Numerica Business Services Group, said Thursday what while Numerica does get a lot of spam, "we find it's not a problem. (Microsoft Corp.'s) Outlook 2003's built-in spam filter copes with it."

Numerica's IT department didn't want to set filter levels, preferring for users to decide what to read and what to delete, he said. While the company had looked at various spam filters, including one offered by Numerica's virus protection supplier MessageLabs Ltd., "really, Outlook's filter is just so good we don't need it," he said.

While U.K. businesses don't seem too perturbed by spam, international efforts to combat it have increased.

In February, the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) held a conference in Brussels on spam, and urged governments around the world to step up antispam efforts. Spam accounts for over half of all e-mails, the OECD said.

Major Internet players are also getting tough on spam. Earlier this month, America Online Inc., EarthLink Inc., Microsoft and Yahoo Inc. joined forces to sue 220 alleged spammers under the U.S. CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing) law that came into effect in January.

The survey's full results will be announced at InfoSecurity Europe in London, April 27 to April 29.

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