India's Web growth a ticking spam bomb

Indian ISPs are among the world's worst spammers, and the high growth potential if Internet adoption in the country could produce double the world's spam count.

India has yet again been called out as the world's top contributor of spam, with state-owned telecom BSNL identified as the biggest individual culprit.

According to his dissertation "Internet bad neighbourhoods" published earlier in March, University of Twente PhD candidate Giovane César Moreira Moura argued that, similar to crime in the real world, a high percentage of illegal Internet attacks in the country were perpetrated from a concentrated area.

Specifically, malicious attacks originated from a small cluster of IP addresses that were part of neighbouring networks. Moura had observed data of 42,201 ISPs (Internet service providers) worldwide, 20 of which produced nearly 50 percent of the world's spam.

"It is important to emphasize that these [ISPs] have an alarming large number of spamming hosts in their networks, and are truly 'spam havens', from which spammers can operate almost freely," the Netherlands-based student wrote.

Indian company BSNL had the dubious honour of generating the highest number of sources of spam, at 662,224. The Asian country's telcos were the world's biggest sources of spam, according to the report, which also featured India's biggest brands including Reliance Telecommunications which ranked 7th on the list, Bharti Airtel at 8th, MTNL at 10th, and Tata Indicom at 19th.

India also was the world's biggest spammer, producing 1.8 million sources which was almost three times as many as second-placed Vietnam. New Delhi topped the list of world's spammiest cities, followed by Bangalore at 3rd, Madras at 7th, Pune at 9th, Hyderabad at 11th, and Calcutta at 18th.

According to Moura, "Bad Neighbourhoods" existed for three reasons: ISPs' different security policies; malware-tolerant ISPs will infect their neighbours; and a lack of local Internet crime legislation. He also highlighted vested interest among cyber gangs to produce e-mail spam.

The author's biggest concern was that high growth potential of India's Internet penetration, which had remained significantly low in the country's populous rural regions , could boost the world's total spam. "The BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries are among the countries with the highest number of spamming IP addresses," Moura wrote. "Given their current economic growth, we can expect a significant increase in the number of malicious hosts in these countries if measures are not taken to improve the security in such networks.

"For example, if India would have the same Internet penetration rate as the United States at 79 percent, it alone would have 20 million spamming IPs--twice as much of as what is observed today for the entire world. One might wonder if this is not the case of a silent ticking bomb," he cautioned.

Security efforts should focus on a particular region, he noted. "This idea, in turn, can be exploited to improve current Internet security solutions, since it provides an indirect approach to predict new sources of attacks [and neighboring hosts of malicious ones]."

India has featured regularly at the top of IT security vendor  Sophos' Dirty Dozen spam report, after first outpacing former leader the United States in first-quarter 2012.