Spammers defy Bill Gates’s death of spam prophecy

Five years after Bill Gates made a prediction that spam would be eradicated, it remains a major problem – with no end in sight.

On 24 January 2004 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Bill Gates declared that spam would be ‘a thing of the past’ within two years. However, with the prophecy’s five year anniversary approaching, spam continues to cause a headache for companies and home users.

Furthermore, more spam is malicious and often designed to infect users’ computers via sophisticated malware attachments or a link to malicious or infected websites, in order to steal sensitive information.

Virtually all spam, of course, is sent from innocent computers that have been compromised by hackers. SophosLabs has been examining its spamtraps around the world to get a picture of where in the world these botnet computers, sending the unwanted adverts and malware, are based.

Dirty dozen spam-relaying countries for Q4 2008

Between October and December 2008, the US relayed most of the world’s unwanted emails. China has leapt back into second place, relaying a larger proportion of spam than it did in 2004, and Russia retains third position. In contrast, other nations like Canada, Japan and France – serial offenders five years ago – appear to have made progress and are no longer present in the list of spam reprobates.

Although the USA’s spam contribution has significantly decreased since Bill Gates’s proclamation – falling from almost half of all spam relayed at the end of 2004, to 21.3 percent by the end of 2007, and now resting at 19.8 percent – this shows there’s certainly no quick fix.

Here’s the chart for top spam-relaying continents, October-December 2008:

Top 12  spam-relaying contintents

So, what should you do? Well, protect your computer with up-to-date security software, patches and a firewall to make sure that you don’t become part of a spammer’s zombie army. And for heaven’s sake, if you see someone ever buying goods advertised via spam – give them a flick around the ear. They’re only helping to perpetuate the problem.