Sophos: Spam from Asia is growing

While the United States is still the top spamming nation, there has been an increase in the amount of spam originating from Asia.

The United States maybe the world's largest spam relaying country for the period of April to September this year, but Asian nations have become bigger contributors to the spam problem, according to a report released by security vendor Sophos.

Top 12 spam relaying countries
(April - September, 2005)
2005 2004
United States 26.4 41.5
South Korea 19.7 11.7
China/HK 15.7 8.9
France 3.5 1.3
Brazil 2.7 3.9
Canada 2.5 7.1
Taiwan 2.2 0.9
Spain 2.2 1.0
Japan 2.0 2.7
United Kingdom 1.6 1.1
Pakistan 1.4 -
Germany 1.3 1.0
Others 18.9 18.1
Source: Sophos

Engineers at SophosLabs scanned all spam messages received in its global network of spam traps from April to September this year, and named the United States as the top spamming nation, accounting for 23.4 percent of the spam worldwide.

At 19.7 percent, South Korea is second on the list, followed by China (inclusive of Hong Kong) which contributed to 15.7 percent of the world's spam.

While these three countries account for more than half of all spam, the United States saw a sharp reduction in the amount relayed from within its borders, as compared to 41.5 percent in last year's report. This, according to Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos, is due to a myriad of reasons.

"Efforts, such as ISPs (Internet service providers) sharing knowledge on how to crack down on spammers and authorities enforcing the CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing) legislation, have helped North America tackle the spammers based on their doorsteps," said Cluley, in a media statement. "Some of the most prolific spammers have been forced to either quit the business or relocate overseas as a result."

But all the Asian countries in Sophos' "Dirty Dozen" list have seen an increase in the amount of spam originating from them. The upside is that several countries in the Asia-Pacific region have either introduced legislation to muzzle spam or joined international alliances in a bid to curb the problem.

The report also revealed that more than 60 percent of spam is now generated from zombie computers, where PCs are "hijacked" by hackers who use these systems to infect other machines with malware.

Clueley noted that hijackers do not have to be located in the same country as their victims to unleash spam. What is more worrying are the security repercussions this has on users, he added. By taking control of unprotected PCs, hackers can relay spam, launch denial-of-service attacks or steal user information without the computer owners' knowledge.

"There are fortunes to be made from the dark side of the Internet, and spammers who are finding it harder to sell goods via bulk e-mail are likely to turn to other criminal activities," said Cluley.