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The Risk and Cost of Hoaxes
« on: September 28, 2007, 01:31:23 PM »

The cost and risk associated with hoaxes may not seem to be that high, and isn't when you consider the cost of handling one hoax on one machine. However, if you consider everyone that receives a hoax, that small cost gets multiplied into some pretty significant costs. For example, if everyone on the Internet were to receive one hoax message and spend one minute reading and discarding it, the cost would be something like:

50,000,000 people * 1/60 hour * $50/hour = $41.7 million

Most people have seen far more than one hoax message and many people cost a business far more than $50 per hour when you add in benefits and overhead. The result is not a small number.

Probably the biggest risk for hoax messages is their ability to multiply. Most people send on the hoax messages to everyone in their address books but consider if they only sent them on to 10 people. The first person (the first generation) sends it to 10, each member of that group of 10 (the second generation) sends it to 10 others or 100 messages and so on.

Generation:Number of Messages    
1:10    2:100    3:1,000    4:10,000    5:100,000    6:1,000,000

As you can see, by the sixth generation there are a million e-mail messages being processed by our mail servers. The capacity to handle these messages must be paid for by the users or, if it is not paid for, the mail servers slow down to a crawl or crash. Note that this example only forwards the message to 10 people at each generation while people who forward real hoax messages often send them to many times that number.

Recently, we have been hearing of spammers (bulk mailers of unsolicited mail) harvesting e-mail addresses from hoaxes and chain letters. After a few generations, many of these letters contain hundreds of good addresses, which is just what the spammers want. We have also heard rumors that spammers are deliberately starting hoaxes and chain letters to gather e-mail addresses (of course, that could be a hoax).  So now, all those nice people who were so worried about the poor little girl dying of cancer find themselves not only laughed at for passing on a hoax but also the recipients of tons of spam mail.

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Re: The Risk and Cost of Hoaxes
« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2007, 01:34:06 PM »
My inbox at friendster is always filled with purported letters of Bill Gates and other millionaires (and of course, the imaginary manager of Friendster, Mr. Allen).

Sometimes I want to reprimand my friends for their ignorance.
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