Just one in ten UK organisations consider spam a major issue, and a full third report the spam tsunami is having little or no impact on their business.
Accordingly, the use of anti-spam filtering technology still the exception rather than the rule.
A survey out today suggests that media attention on the spam issue is out of step with the severity of the problem on the ground, at least for now. But this may change - all indicators suggest spam volumes are continuing to grow, the Department of Trade and Industry's 2004 Information Security Breaches Survey reveals.
Around 17 per cent of the 1,000 organisations quizzed reported that spam made up more than half of all the emails they received. Smaller companies tended to be harder hit by the problem than larger corporations.
Andrew Beard, the PricewaterhouseCoopers advisory services director involved in the DTI survey, said: "Spam hits businesses in a number of ways - they can be victims when their email and network services are degraded, but they can also unwittingly contribute to the problem if they allow poorly secured mail servers to be used by the spammers as 'relays' to spread their messages to other organisations."
Simon Perry, vice-president of security strategy for Computer Associates, added: "Spam affects more than just productivity. It also has a dangerous side to it. Some can contain viruses or malicious active code. Without the adequate anti-virus protection, critical data can be compromised."
Despite the these risks, the use of filtering tools is still far from widespread. Only twenty per cent of UK small firms have deployed this technology, although the figure for large businesses is more than double this, at 44 per cent.
In the case of smaller companies, cost concerns or lack of awareness of filtering technology may be holding up adoption of anti-spam technology. Among businesses in general, the feeling may be that the technology is still immature. Many of those polled believed ISPs should do more to choke spam at its source or that a levy should be applied to each email sent to deter mass mailing.
The full results of the biannual 2004 Department of Trade and Industry's Information Security Breaches Survey will be launched at the InfoSecurity Europe conference in London at the end of this month. ®
DTI Information Security Breaches Survey home page