UK rising in the spam charts

The spread of home broadband and lax virus protection means the UK is generating a greater chunk of the world's spam mountain

The proportion of spam coming from the UK has increased, anti-malware company Sophos said on Tuesday.

From April to September 2005 the UK was responsible for 1.55 percent of global spam relayed over the Web, up from 1.07 percent in the same period last year, Sophos reported. This makes the UK the tenth greatest generator of junk email.

Sophos said that it has detected a decline in the total amount of spam swilling around the Internet. As reported earlier this week, the US has seen a sharp decline in the amount of spam relayed by its computers, while the spam volume from South Korea and China is substantially up.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, estimated that spam coming from the UK has declined a bit, but has gone down by less than the world average.

"It could be that more people are using broadband, and that home users are worse at updating their antivirus software," Cluley said.

According to Sophos, more than 60 percent of spam is relayed by zombie computers — systems that have been hijacked by viruses. Home users account for most computers on zombie networks.

"If a user has up-to-date anti-malware software, their computer is far less likely to become a zombie," Cluley said.

People are not updating their antivirus software enough, he added. "The top malware for the last 18 months has been Netsky.P. Any up-to-date antivirus software finds getting rid of Netsky.P a breeze," he said.

Sophos also found that spammers have been moving over to malware to create "dirty money", a trend that has been widely reported in recent months.

"We are seeing more malicious trojans that are financially motivated, and that share common code segments and sequences with previous spam." This indicates that the same people who were involved in spam have moved over to writing malicious code, Cluley said. "Spammers are absconding from the US and setting up abroad — they will carry on trying to make money by whatever means."

UK spam and other forms of computer abuse will continue into the future so long as users ignore critical updates, according to Sophos.

"Plenty of British computers will carry on being abused for a long time to come. People need to put critical patches on. Microsoft have just brought out a number of critical patches — I wonder how many have actually been installed?"

The latest Microsoft critical update installation figures for the UK were not available at the time of writing.