Half of all spam is relayed via Asian computers

Filed Under: Botnet, Featured, Spam

Asia spamDo you take enough care over your personal computer? Have you kept it up-to-date with the latest anti-virus software and security patches?

Those are the kinds of questions you have to ask yourself if you want to avoid contributing to the "Dirty Dozen", Sophos's regular research into the countries which are relaying the most spam messages.

Sophos's latest report reveals that, although the USA remains the single worst offender, Asian nations contributed a significantly higher proportion of global spam than for the same period in Q3 2010.

Jumping up the table five places, South Korea is second to the USA, contributing 9.6% of all global spam emails. Several Asian nations - Indonesia, Pakistan, Taiwan and Vietnam - have joined the Dirty Dozen since Q3 2010, with India dropping to third place behind South Korea and being responsible for relaying 8.8% of the world's spam.

Spam dashboard

The top twelve spam relaying countries for July-September 2011

1. USA 11.3%
2. S Korea 9.6%
3. India 8.8%
4. Russia 7.9%
5. Brazil 5.7%
6. Taiwan 3.8%
7. Vietnam 3.5%
8. Indonesia 3.3%
9. Ukraine 3.1%
10. Romania 2.8%
11. Pakistan 2.0%
12. Italy 1.9%
Other 36.3%

How can you improve your country's standing on the chart?

The vast majority of spam emails are distributed by botnets - networks of infected machines (zombies) which are under the control of spammers.

Computer users risk becoming part of botnets if they do not run up-to-date anti-virus software and the latest security patches. Typical methods of infection include clicking on links or attachments in spam messages. The problem is not limited to traditional email, social networking services are also exploited by fraudsters to spread money-making surveys via spammed-out messages.

Botnets are also used by cybercriminals to launch Distributed Denial of Service attacks (DDoS), where thousands of zombie computers are used to connect to a specific website, forcing it offline as it struggles to cope with the increase in traffic.

The percentage of spam coming from Asia has increased, with over half of all spam messages now being relayed via the continent.

The top spam relaying continents for July - September 2011

1. Asia 50.1%
2. Europe 21.4%
3. N America 14.2%
4. S America 10.6%
5. Africa 3.0%
Other 0.7%

During Q3 2010, Asia was responsible for 30% of all spam. The output has now increased to 50.1% from 35.1% at the beginning of 2011.

Another piece of advice if you want to help fight spam: Don't ever be tempted to buy anything via spam, as that's what makes it worthwhile for the spammers.

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About the author

Graham Cluley is an award-winning security blogger, and veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and gives computer security presentations. Send Graham an email, subscribe to his updates on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and App.net, and circle him on Google Plus for regular updates.