Levels of unsolicited commercial email, aka spam, have dropped by a staggering 47% in the past several months, according to statistics assembled by Symantec. This certainly is welcome news, as spam still accounts for 81% of all email traffic on the Internet.

Once upon a time at the dawn of the Internet age, spam frankly was a bigger problem than it is now, as filtering technology was not terribly advanced. Thus, email in boxes were flooded with unwelcome messages.

It was in that context that a number of states enacted their own laws to grapple with the spam problem. Indeed, more than half of the states stepped in to fill the void left by Congress failing to act. Of course, state regulation of spam had its own limitations, given that the Internet does not know state boundaries. When messages are sent to email addresses, it is not known in advance in which states the recipients are located.

Ultimately, Congress did pass the Can-Spam Act of 2003 in an effort to regulate unsolicited commercial email on a national basis and to help achieve some uniformity. But did that stop spam? No! Even with a legal framework in place, offshore and hard to track spammers continued to send their messages with abandon.

So, while the legal solution was not terribly effective in a big picture sense, spam filters were developed and improved to help save the day. As a result of such filters, email in boxes now are not nearly as flooded with spam as the once were. However, filters are not perfect. They can filter out legitimate and desired emails, and they also can fail to trap some spam message. As a result, filtered emails do need to be checked.

So, why have spam levels dropped off significantly in the past several months? It appears that intelligence work has led to the shutting down of major spam-sending botnets. Hopefully, such work will continue and spam levels will continue to decrease.