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23 Apr 2012

India Takes Spamming Crown from the US

Malicious spam and phishing increases, while overall volumes dip

Sophos has published the latest 'Dirty Dozen' of spam relaying countries, covering the first quarter of 2012. In the space of a year, India has overtaken the United States to become the top global contributor of junk messages, responsible for relaying one in ten spam emails.

Most spam comes from home computers that have been compromised by hackers. India’s rise to the top spot comes as the number of new Internet users in the country is growing very rapidly, suggesting that computers in the country are not properly protected and that ISPs are not taking spam as seriously as they should.

At the same time last year, the UK resided in sixth place in the table, contributing 3.2% of global spam. Since then, it has fallen off the Dirty Dozen entirely and, in terms of sheer numbers, UK spam has decreased by 47%.

Overall throughput of global email spam messages has decreased since Q1 2011, partly because of better work by ISPs around the world, but also reflecting a change in tactics by cybercriminals. Spammers are increasingly finding traditional email spam ineffective, turning to social networks to spread these kinds of marketing spam campaigns instead.

While basic marketing spam decreases, the amount of messages that spread malware or that represent more targeted attempts to phish usernames, passwords and personal information is increasing.

The top 12 spam-relaying countries for January to March 2012 are as follows:

1. India 9.3%
2. USA 8.3%
3. South Korea 5.7%
4. Indonesia tied with Russia 5.0%
5. Italy 4.9%
6. Brazil 4.3%
7. Poland 3.9%
8. Pakistan 3.3%
9. Vietnam 3.2%
10. Taiwan 2.9%
11. Peru 2.5%
12. Other 41.7%

"While traditional marketing spam may appear to be no more than an annoyance, offering pills that have questionable claims or ‘get rich quick’ schemes, they can often to lead to more serious threats to your personal information,” said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. “The latest stats show that, as more first-time Internet users get online in growing economies, they are not taking measures to block the malware infections that turn their PCs into spam-spewing zombies.”

Zombies are the infected computers that form networks called botnets. Botnets are used by cybercriminals to send spam, steal information and launch DDoS ‘denial of service’ attacks, in which all the zombie computers are told to access a single website at once, forcing it offline.

Top spam-relaying continents for January to March 2012 are as follows:

1. Asia 46.7%
2. Europe 26.9%
3. South America 11.9%
4. North America 10.9%
5. Africa 3.0%
6. Other 0.6%

Spammers are increasingly taking advantage of other platforms to spread their messages. Facebook and Twitter have for some time been targeted with campaigns but, most recently, hot new social network Pinterest has been used by spammers to distribute posts linking to web pages offering to sell goods, or earning commission for the spammers.

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. Home users are advised to defend their computers with virus protection, to prevent becoming part of a botnet used for the purposes of sending spam.

Further information about the latest dirty dozen report can be found on Sophos's Naked Security site at: http://nakedsecurity.sophos.com.

About Sophos

More than 100 million users in 150 countries rely on Sophos as the best protection against complex threats and data loss. Sophos is committed to providing complete security solutions that are simple to deploy, manage, and use and that deliver the industry's lowest total cost of ownership. Sophos offers award-winning encryption, endpoint security, web, email, mobile and network security solutions backed by SophosLabs - a global network of threat intelligence centers.

Sophos is headquartered in Boston, US and Oxford, UK. More information is available at www.sophos.com.