Study: Common letters get more spam

Those whose names begin with common letters are more likely to receive spam

Those whose names begin with common letter such as A, S, and M are more likely to receive spam that those who start with uncommon ones such as Z and Q, according to research.

Cambridge University security expert Richard Clayton analyzed e-mail traffic logs from Demon Internet and discovered that those with names beginning with more common characters are more likely to receive spam than those with less common ones. (Read the entire report.)

For example, his statistics show that 35 percent of the e-mail received by someone called Alison will be spam, compared to the 20 percent received by someone called Zadie, even though both may have the same e-mail provider.

This contradicts previous theories that it's the section of an e-mail address after the @ symbol that is important to spammers.

"Marmosets and pelicans get around 42 percent spam (M and P being popular letters for people's names) and quaggas 21 percent (there are very few Quentins, just as there are very few Zacks)," Clayton wrote in a follow-up blog post correcting the notion (incorrectly reported here) that alphabetical order was involved in an increase in spam attacks.

Clayton claims that spammers rely on 'Rumplestiltskin' attacks, where they trawl through the dictionary, guessing at names to send spam e-mails too, with a high percentage turning out to be real names.

And Clayton's advice to those fed up with spam - pick your username more carefully.

Jason Snell of Macworld US contributed to this report

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