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China Nudges Out U.S. For Most Bot-Infected Machines

More than half of all SQL injection attacks in Q4 2009 came out of China, new McAfee report says
The U.S. may still rank No. 1 in spam production, but China is now home to the most bot-infected machines that spew spam, as well as the source of most SQL injection attacks.

China made up 12.1 percent of all spamming bots or zombies as of last year's fourth quarter, while the U.S. dropped from 13.1 percent in the third quarter to 9.5, according to a new McAfee report. That puts the U.S. in the No. 2 position for bots.

Interestingly, there has been a slow, downward trend worldwide in the number of newly infected bot machines spewing spam since June 2009, according to McAfee: That number went from 5 million in June and July to around 3.4 million in November, and then to about 3.9 million in December.

Overall, spam volume has dropped during the winter months: After a record-breaking 175 billion spam messages per day in the third quarter, there was a 24 percent drop in the fourth quarter, to about 133 billion spam messages a day, McAfee says. McAfee says that trend won't last, however, because overall, spam volume is up 35 percent over the fourth quarter of 2008.

"In Q4, we saw spam activity drop, but identified some interesting trends developing in terms of the geographic distribution of cyberthreats and the types of threats executed," says Mike Gallagher, senior vice president and chief technology officer at McAfee Labs.

China hosted the most SQL injection attacks in the world in the fourth quarter, with 54.4 percent of them, followed by the U.S., 24.3 percent; Japan, 2.5 percent; the U.K., 1.9 percent; Ukraine, 1.8 percent; Brazil, 1.4 percent; Netherlands, 1 percent; Iran, 1 percent; Argentina, 0.9 percent; and Spain, 0.9 percent.

McAfee Labs detected an ongoing attack on Web servers during September and December that were targeted for their vulnerable or poorly configured Web applications. Those attacks came mostly out of China.

Meanwhile, other bot-infested countries are Brazil (8.5 percent); Russia (7 percent); Germany (6 percent); Republic of Korea (5 percent); Italy (3.5 percent); U.K. (3.2 percent); Taiwan (3 percent); and Spain (2.6 percent).

China was not among the top 10 spamming countries, however: After the U.S. (15.6 percent) and Brazil (11.2 percent) came India (5.6 percent); Venezuela (4.4 percent); Republic of Korea (3.8 percent); Ukraine (3.7 percent); Poland (3.6 percent); Romania (3.3 percent); Germany (2.9 percent); and Russia (2.4 percent).

David Marcus, director of security research for McAfee Labs, says it's unclear whether China will again be at the top of the bot list for SQL injection attacks in the first quarter of this year, mainly because these are "dynamic threats."

McAfee's report can be downloaded here (PDF).

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