Holiday SPAM (or the lack thereof)
Our social patterns are echoed in the Internet in strange ways. For example, my joke website gets a lot more traffic on Fridays than other days (I guess there's lot more goofing off Friday afternoon).
But a particularly interesting echo is that there's less SPAM on holiday weekends than normal. The reason? People are more likely to shut down their computers for a long weekend than for a normal weekend.
You see, most SPAM comes from individual personal computers that have a virus. Not a crippling virus, just one that quietly sends out emails about drug offers, fake luxury products, and letters from Nigerian princes. They go out at a steady pace, not too much to raise an alarm or slow your machine down too much, but still hundreds every hour.
The fact that we see a noticeable drop in SPAM over Christmas shows just how many computers are working for someone other than their owners. These computers aren't just sending SPAM -- they also infect other computers, steal personal information from servers, and gang together to take down websites in extortion rackets.
This is where I'm supposed to put the obligatory virus software pitch, but I have this sneaking suspicion that even if everyone installed all their updates and ran all the virus/spyware programs we'd still have this stuff slipping through. Most of this stuff comes from smart, underemployed Russians and Chinese who have far more time to figure out how to hijack your computer than you have time to block them.
No matter what, it's nice to have a holiday from Spam…