CNA Financial Corp. received about 4.5 million inbound e-mails in August. An estimated 1.5 million to 2 million of those were unsolicited commercial electronic messages, otherwise known as "spam." During any given 24-hour period, the insurance giant blocks more than 50% of the 150,000 inbound electronic messages.This might sound like a self-inflicted wound for a financial services firm that depends heavily on electronic commerce. Instead, it's survival of the fittest in a business world gone awry with spam.

"Spam-related costs are increasing rapidly for both corporations and ISPs, mainly as a result of lost productivity, consumption of IT resources and help-desk support," says David Ferris, president of Ferris Research, a market and technology consulting firm based in San Francisco. Ferris estimates the total cost of unsolicited commercial e-mail to corporate organizations will exceed $10 billion, or about $14 per user per month in 2003, up from $8.9 billion last year.

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