Spam shame continues for USA as UK exits dirty dozen, Sophos reports

April 29, 2009 Sophos Press Release

IT security and control firm Sophos has published its latest report into the top twelve spam relaying countries, covering the first quarter of 2009. The United States of America continues its reign as the king of spam, relaying more than 15 percent of global spam messages. Conversely, the United Kingdom has disappeared from the 'Dirty Dozen' for the first time in two years, polling 14th overall, and relaying 2.1 percent of the world's spam.

Brazil has seen the biggest increase in spam output, jumping from fourth to second place since last quarter. The country is now the source of more than ten percent of spam emails, compared to 4.3 percent during the same period last year. Germany joins the UK in dropping out of the top twelve since last quarter, with Poland and Columbia returning to the table for the first time since Q2 and Q3 2008 respectively.

The top twelve spam relaying countries for January to March 2009 are as follows:

Dirty dozen spam-relaying countries

"The US has gone some way towards reducing levels of spam since last quarter, when the country relayed almost a fifth of all the spam messages," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. "What's less encouraging is that Brazil has shot up the ranks. It's no secret that the country has long been associated with cybercrime - in particular the spread of banking Trojans - however, a surge like this could also be a by-product of China's slip down the charts. In any case, it's certainly a trend to keep a close eye on."

The blight of inboxes, spam accounts for a staggering 97 percent of all email received by business email servers, putting both a strain on resources and wasting a huge amount of time to lost productivity. Used largely as a method for selling counterfeit or illicit goods, virtually all spam comes from malware infected computers (called bots, or zombies) that are controlled by 'botherder' cybercriminals.

Computer users can unwittingly allow their PCs to become part of a botnet in a number of ways, including clicking on malicious links that are frequently contained within the spam messages that the botnets are used to distribute. The only way for users and administrators to reduce the risk of being compromised is to run anti-spam and anti-malware protection and ensure all software and hardware is up to date with security patches.

"Of course, the real cause of the spam problem is that not everyone will automatically delete these emails on sight," continued Cluley. "People out there must be buying products from spam, after all - the criminals behind the botnets would soon give up if they weren't making any money out of it. Computer users should know by now that buying from spam is contributing to the problem, as well as putting their personal information into the hands of criminals - everyone should pledge to never ever buy via spam."

By continent, Asia continues to dominate in spam, with more than a third of the world's unsolicited junk email relayed by the region. Although the US remains the top offender by country, North America as a whole has reduced its spam throughput since last quarter, dropping from second to third place. The breakdown of spam relaying by continent is as follows:

Top spam-relaying continents

Sophos recommends that companies automatically update their corporate virus protection, and run a consolidated solution at their email and web gateways to defend against spam and viruses.