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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Spam Superpower

AFP reports:

Russia has become a a "superpower" of spam e-mail, becoming the second most prolific country after the United States in producing junk emails, a computer security firm said Monday.

"The country has stormed into second place, accounting for 8.3 percent of the world's spam, or one in 12 junk mails seen in inboxes," according to security firm Sophos in its quarterly update on spam email.

Between October and December 2007, the United States remained the spam leader, accounting for 21 percent of these emails, which contained unsolicited marketing pitches and sometimes viruses or other malicious software. But on a regional basis, Asia ranked first with 32 percent of all spam, followed by Europe at 27 percent, with North America in third place, accounting for 26.5 percent of junk email. The "dirty dozen" spam-relaying countries were the United States, Russia, China (4.2 percent), Brazil (4.0 percent), South Korea (3.9 percent), Turkey (3.8 percent), Italy (3.5 percent), Poland (3.4 percent), Germany (3.2 percent), Spain (3.1 percent), Mexico (3.1 percent) and Britain (2.5 percent).

"Countries that continually remain among the top spam-relaying countries need to ensure that they are doing more to proper defend computer systems," said Mike Haro, senior security analyst at Sophos. "If they continue to sit back as compromised computers spread malicious emails and malware, then hackers will continue to look at these systems as easy targets in their efforts to turn them into botnets," which can be controlled by hackers.

In one of the latest efforts to bypass spam filters, Sophos said cybercriminals sent out their messages with supposed music files from stars such as Elvis Presley, Fergie and Carrie Underwood attached to the messages. The files actually contained a monotone voice encouraging people to buy shares in a little-known company. "This spam campaign is a perfect example of how cybercriminals will change their approach and tactics in order to trick users into making bad choices," said Haro.

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