A new report suggests that online spammers could be making multi-million dollar profits despite only receiving one response from every 12.5m emails sent.

Research by computer scientists at the University of California, Berkeley and UC, San Diego (UCSD) revealed that despite a response rate of 0.00001%, spammers could still generate seven-figure returns.

As part of the month-long campaign, researchers infiltrated the Storm network, a spam network which uses hijacked PC’s to relay spam e-mails. At it’s peak, Storm was thought to have more than one million PC’s under it’s control.

Using a sample of the Storm network, researchers generated two types of fake email spam campaigns, the most commonly used being a fake pharmacy site purporting to sell a drug designed to improve a man’s sex drive.

Potential buyers who clicked through the spam links were presented with a error message when they attempted to make a purchase, although details of the “sale” were logged to determine the potential revenues.

At the conclusion of the trial, the researchers wrote; “After 26 days, and almost 350million email messages, only 28 sales resulted.”

Those sales generated $2,731.88 in revenue – approximately $100 a day. Using those figures, the researchers esitmated that revenues would have increased to $7,000 a day, equating to $3.5m per year.

The research did conceed however that whilst this was a good return, the figures were well below the figures that many percieve spammers to be generating, with the response rate of 0.00001% significantly lower than that of more traditional direct mail campaigns, which typically attract a response rate of 2.15%.

Consumer awareness of spam marketing, coupled with more effective spam filters found in many antivirus systems were also cited as factors.

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