India has overtaken the United States to become the world's top contributor of spam messages, driven by the country's rise in new Internet users who lack PC security protection as well as Internet service providers (ISPs) that do not understand the severity of spam.
Released Tuesday, Sophos' "Dirty Dozen" report for the first quarter of 2012 stated that India contributed 9.3 percent or about 1 of 10 spam message worldwide, ahead of the U.S. which accounted for 8.3 percent and South Korea at 5.7 percent. India jumped to pole position from third place in third-quarter 2011.
The country's rise to the top spot was driven by the rapidly growing number of new Internet users, and suggested that computers India were not properly protected and that ISPs were not taking spam "as seriously as they should", Sophos noted.
"As more first-time Internet users get online in growing economies, they are not taking appropriate measures to block the malware infections that turn their PCs into spam-spewing zombies," Graham Cluley, the security vendor's senior technology consultant, said in a statement.
Asia remained the top spam-relaying continent for January to March 2012, when it was responsible for 46.7 percent of global junk messages. This was a decrease from third-quarter 2011 when the region relayed 50.1 percent of worldwide spam.
Besides India and South Korea, several other Asian nations made the Top 12, including Indonesia, Pakistan, Vietnam and Taiwan.
Rise of spam via social networking
The report noted that global e-mail spam messages had decreased since first-quarter 2011, partly because of better efforts from ISPs worldwide, noted the Sophos report. However, this also reflected a change in tactics by cybercriminals, it said. Spammers were increasingly finding traditional e-mail spam ineffective, and turning to social networks instead to spread marketing spam campaigns.
According to Sophos, spammers have also increasingly taken advantage of other platforms to spread junk messages. It added that Facebook and Twitter have been popular targets but more recently, new social network Pinterest has been used by spammers to distribute posts linking to Web pages offering to sell goods, or earn comission for the spammers.
While basic marketing spam decreased, the amount of messages which spread malware or represented more targeted attempts to phish usernames, passwords and personal information were on the rise, the security company warned.