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Inside China's Spam Crisis

Approximately 70% of all domains used in spam since the beginning of 2009 have a Chinese top-level domain.

Thomas Claburn

June 22, 2009

2 Min Read

While China is cracking down on Google for displaying search results that lead to harmful content and trying to get its Green Dam Web filter on every PC in the country, it may want to consider the role that poor oversight of local companies plays in the distribution of "unhealthy" material.

In the case of spam, through which pornography, malware, and scams are spread, most of it appears to be coming from inside China. Approximately 70% of all domains used in spam since the beginning of 2009 have a Chinese top-level domain (.cn), according to Gary Warner, director of research in computer forensics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

This is not to say the spammers themselves necessarily reside in China. Rather, these international criminals have found it profitable to take advantage of poorly regulated infrastructure in China.

"I truly believe that the Chinese government would not willingly tolerate this horrible situation," Warner said in a blog post Saturday. "My only answer is that it must not have been properly brought to their attention so far."

Warner characterizes the situation in China as a spam crisis. The problem, he explains, is threefold.

First, some Internet registrars in China are not responsive to complaints, making it difficult to shut down domains used by spammers. One reason, he speculates, is that these registrars operate reseller businesses and aren't interested in policing their customers' operations. He points to Ename and Xin Net Technology as registrars that have been tarnished by the actions of their resellers.

Second, he says that some of China's network operators are equally unresponsive to complaints. He cites CHINA169-BACKBONE CNCGROUP, CHINANET-BACKBONE, and CNCNET-CN China Netcom as examples.

Warner doesn't believe these companies deliberately serve criminals. "We believe that criminals use their network[s], and these companies have not yet found a way to effectively receive our complaints and remove these criminals from their networks," he said.

Third, he says that China's law enforcement community needs to be more engaged with the rest of the world. "It is unacceptable in the International Community to allow one's country to continue to serve as a haven for spammers of illegally counterfeited pills, illegally counterfeited software, and illegally counterfeited watches and handbags," he said. "It is also unacceptable to provide hosting services for numerous international criminals to place their servers on networks in your country."


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About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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