11:30 AM

US Extends Spam Lead

Twice as much spam comes from the United States as any other country in the world, finds Sophos.

Received a spam e-mail lately? No matter where you are in the world, statistically speaking, a report finds that it's most likely to have come from the United States.

Indeed, according to security firm Sophos, which released the study, in the second quarter of 2010, 15.2% of all global spam messages emanated from the United States, an increase from the 13.1% seen in the first quarter of 2010. Rounding out the top five list of global spam-generating countries were India (7.7%), Brazil (5.5%), the United Kingdom (4.6%), and South Korea (4.2%).

In addition, the study found that 97% of all e-mails received by business e-mail servers are now spam.

On a more regional level, from the first to second quarter of 2010, Europe overtook Asia for the sheer volume of spam being generated, reported Sophos. Today, 35% of all spam arrives via European PCs, followed by computers in Asia (30.9%), North America (18.9%), South America (11.5%), and Africa (2.5%).

The problem with spam, beyond the annoyance factor, is twofold. First, "spam is becoming increasingly malicious -- not just advertising unwanted goods, but spreading links to malicious websites and computer-infecting malware," according to a statement released by Sophos.

Second, the lion's share of spam emanates from compromised -- aka zombie -- PCs controlled by massive, distributed botnets such as Zeus, which can be created and managed using automated botnet toolkits, which lowers the barrier to entry for criminals without advanced coding skills.

"These cybercriminals are motivated by money --- and they don't just use your hacked PC to spread spam, but also to steal your identity and bank account information, to launch denial-of-service attacks, and to distribute malware to recruit even more innocent computers into their army," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant, in a Sophos blog post.

Will spam ever die? Given the financial incentives, don't bet on it, said Cluley. "Spam will continue to be a global problem for as long as it makes money for the spammers. It makes commercial sense for the criminals to continue if even a tiny proportion of recipients clicks on the links."

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