An Empirical Study of Spam Traffic and the Use of DNS Black Lists

Jaeyeon Jung, Emil Sit
Internet Measurement Conference, Taormina, Italy, October 2004

This paper presents quantitative data about SMTP traffic to MIT s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) based on packet traces taken in December 2000 and February 2004. These traces show that the volume of email has increased by 866% between 2000 and 2004. Local mail hosts utilizing black lists generated over 470,000 DNS lookups, which accounts for 14% of all DNS lookups that were observed on the border gateway of CSAIL on a given day in 2004. In comparison, DNS black list lookups accounted for merely 0.4% of lookups in December 2000. The distribution of the number of connections per remote spam source is Zipf-like in 2004, but not so in 2000. This suggests that black lists may be ineffective at fully stemming the tide of spam. We examined seven popular black lists and found that 80% of spam sources we identified are listed in some DNS black list. Some DNS black lists appear to be well-correlated with others, which should be considered when estimating the likelihood that a host is a spam source.

[PDF (81KB)] [Presentation (384KB)]

Bibtex Entry:

@inproceedings{jung2004empirical,
   author =       "Jaeyeon Jung and Emil Sit",
   title =        "{An Empirical Study of Spam Traffic and the Use of DNS Black Lists}",
   booktitle =    {Internet Measurement Conference},
   year =         {2004},
   month =        {October},
   address =      {Taormina, Italy}
}