UT Researchers Take Down Spam One Day at a Time



  • SpamRankings.net publicly lists organizations that are transmitting spam through their computer networks
  • The project’s goal is to influence these companies to fix their security problems

Sometimes email spam is tucked away neatly in a spam folder with obvious subject lines like “Need Cash Quick?” or “Best Luxury Replica Watch Supplier.” But other times it’s not so apparent, making its way to your inbox with believable subjects like “LinkedIn Friend Request” or “Urgent Attention Needed for your ATM Card Delivery.” Not only is spam obnoxious, but it also causes major problems across the world in the form of wasted time, dangerous viruses, stolen identities, and large financial costs to fix the problem.

Since 2011, the Center for Research in Electronic Commerce (CREC) at The University of Texas has been tracking where spam is coming from on SpamRankings.net.

“Most spam is sent from computers compromised by botnets or phishing” says center director Andrew Whinston.  “The same security problems that let those problems in could be used for worse things, ranging from denial of service attacks to identity theft to blackmail to alteration of financial records.”

In an effort to prevent those problems from cropping up, each month SpamRankings.net publicly lists organizations that are hosting spam, albeit sometimes unknowingly. The hope is that bad publicity will influence these companies to fix their security problems.

“If our approach works, it will enable a strong policy argument that more disclosure of breaches for more reputational rankings would improve security even more,” says John S. Quarterman, the project’s senior researcher, proprietor of Quarterman Creations, and author of seven books about the Internet.

Ever wonder where all that spam in your inbox comes from? SpamRankings.net tracks daily changes in spam trends worldwide. In July, most of it originated in the U.S. The infographic below features other interesting highlights from the CREC’s findings. (Click for full size.)

Spamrankings.net infographic


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Faculty in this Article

Andrew B. Whinston

Professor, IROM

Andrew B. Whinston is a professor in the department of Information, Risk, and Operations Management at the McCombs School of Business. He also...

About The Author

Kim Brown

Senior Graphic Designer,

I design, write, and sometimes take pictures.

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