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Report: Spam Ratio Depends on Address’s First Letter

Lot of Spam? You Might Be an Aardvark.

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[ Technology]

If a study by a Cambridge researcher is accurate, email addresses with less common first letters get less spam than those with more common ones.

Richard Clayton who conducted the study (and shares his findings in this PDF), titled his research paper "Do Zebras get more Spam than Aardvarks?" Zebras and Aardvarks reprsent email addresses that begin with the letters Z and A respectively, though Clayton made clear that it is not about the two being at opposite sides of the alphabet. It’s about how common the letters are.

To answer the question, no. Zebras do not get more spam than aardvarks. They get far less. This is true, at least for the real zebras – the "Z" addresses that actually exist (spammers send to tons and tons of email addresses including ones that don’t exist). Aardvarks get a whole lot of it. As do Moles, Snakes, and Penguins (I made up these representations).

Aardvarks and Zebras
M, S, and P are some of the most common letters that begin email addresses, and incidentally, 42% of messages to these addresses are spam. Addresses that begin with less common letters like X or Q get a significantly less percentage of spam.

To gather his data, Clayton went through UK ISP, Demon Internet. The ISP uses a spam detection system from Cloudmark, and only email messages that reached that system were considered for the study.

Report: Spam Ratio Depends on Address’s First Letter
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  • http://website-related.com/BotStufr Spam Thwarter

    M, P and S!! What a bizarre thing to discover! Kinda glad they did, as its enjoying this kind of info that gives my friends reason to call me a geek!

  • http://www.ssld.co.uk Staging a comeback

    I find it hard to believe theres some sort of algorithm that targets certain letters. Its surely a coincidence.

    • Dan

      Weighting the letters in randomly generated target addresses based on frequency would result in a higher fraction of it reaching active accounts.  You’d probably find the same patterns if you looked at the amount of spam vs any arbitary character in the address.

  • Guest

    It appears that the ratio is miss labeled.

    It appears to be: spam / total messages

  • http://www.anastasiosyal.com Anastasiosyal

    Interesting find but just a slight miss on your conclusion…

    Q and X may well be two of the characters that gets the least mail overall since there are not so many addresses starting with those letters, but they both have some of the worst SPAM ratios, which means that they receive the most junk.

    To reach valid conclusions you need to divide the Spam vs No-Spam (it also appears on the chart as a line) so this would means that from the graph we can conclude that emails starting with the characters 0, A, W and S seemingly receive the least SPAM according to this data

  • http://officialsafetyandsecurity.com Debbie Morgan

    It sounds like the research for the UK is probably accurate but is it safe to assume that it is also true for those email addresses here in the USA?

    If so, then to use this information to my benefit, I should change my email address to one that starts with Q or X to keep my spam to a minimum or should I just have a good spam filter in place?

    Thanks, Chris, for this insightful article. Feel free to use my questions as seed for your next one!

  • http://officialsafetyandsecurity.com Debbie Morgan

    It sounds like the research for the UK is probably accurate but is it safe to assume that it is also true for those email addresses here in the USA?

    If so, then to use this information to my benefit, I should change my email address to one that starts with Q or X to keep my spam to a minimum or should I just have a good spam filter in place?

    Thanks, Chris, for this insightful article. Feel free to use my questions as seed for your next one!

  • http://www.ssrichardmontgomery.com ron

    You realise now that this survey has been seen by thousands of people, a lot have acted accordingly apon this informaition( including the spammers  & junk mail (promotional to them of course)senders  that because of the changes caused by this in the equation the information is no longer valid!

  • http://www.webnetcreatives.net Web Design Company

    How is it possible..Can anyone explain?

  • Guest

    Makes perfect sense.  Spammers start with a list that by default is probably sorted in alpha order.  They start the sending and as they work their way through the potentially gigantic database the early receivers start to flag the spam and the various ISP’s and other begin to filter so by the time the sending gets to the bottom of the list, the recipients have been innoculated against receiving it.

    • Guest

      You missed the point – it’s not the order (of cause half of the readersx would be confused by this Zebra example), but the usage frequency. Noone says spum percentage reduces from A to Z

    • http://www.kenilworthcomputerrepairs.com John

      I have noticed when looking in my Mailwasher log that a lot of the spam I receive starts mainly with the letter “s”.

      I have been monitoring this and there definately seems to be some sort of pattern.

      John

  • http://www.ccl-forensics.com Forensic Fran

    I agree with Dan its make than just coincidence

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