What a difference a day makes. In the 12 hours following the take down of McColo Corp, a web hosting service that stands accused of being responsible for enabling as much as 75 percent of the world's email spam, the volume of said junk mail recorded by specialists at MessageLabs dropped to eight times less than average.
The bad news is that levels started to rise again after that, an almost inevitable consequence of the free market economy that exists within the criminal underground. Knock one player off the top of the tree and others rise up to replace it. This happens all the time.
Matt Sergeant, Senior Anti-Spam Technologist at MessageLabs, still thinks that attacking a spam kingpin can have a dramatic effect. He told me that "First with Atrivo and now the demise of McColo is a testament to how community action is absolutely vital in the fight against spam."
In this case that community action came courtesy of the Washington Post which investigated McColo for four months prior to the outfit having connectivity pulled by two US-based ISPs as a result of its findings.
Hopefully this will, at the very least, come as a wake up call to ISPs and web hosts alike that they are under scrutiny from all angles. That allowing customers to get away with herding botnets is not acceptable and action will be taken. Peering companies cannot simply pretend that what customers do is nothing to do with them. Now that the Internet community has woken up to the problem, and establishment outlets such as major newspapers are taking an interest, perhaps the authorities will start taking things a little more seriously as well.
Of course, it will not destroy the spam problem, not when all a big spam outfit needs is one response for every 12.5 million spams sent to make a profit. It might make a big dent though, and that has got to be worth fighting for.