US Still Tops Spammer List

Despite a drop in its overall share of global spam, the United States remains the number one originator of unsolicited e-mail in the world.

Those are the findings of antivirus, antispam software maker Sophos in its latest “dirty dozen” report, which identifies the 12 top countries where spam originates.

According to Sophos, 42.53 percent of worldwide spam originates in the United States — a 14 percent drop from February, when its share was 56.74 percent.

Share Drop, Volume Not

The declining share numbers are no cause for rejoicing nor any vindication of antispam efforts in the land of Uncle Sam, according to Sophos Senior Technical Consultant Graham Cluley.

“This is comparing the different countries in terms of their slice of the spam problem,” he told TechNewsWorld from his office in Abingdon in the United Kingdom.

“These are percentages of the global amount of spam going out there,” he explained. “Even if the United States’ share has gone down, it doesn’t mean that the actual amount of spam coming out of the United States has decreased.”

More Than Ever Before

“Other countries are sending out a greater percentage of spam than the United States, but as far as we can see there’s no sign that the amount of spam coming out of the States has decreased,” he said. “We are now seeing more spam than ever before.”

And more of it — despite measures like the Can-Spam Act and Justice Department dragnets — appears to be coming from the United States.

According to CipherTrust, a messaging security firm in Atlanta, nearly 86 percent of the worldwide volume of spam between May and July of this year originated in the United States.

Veneer of Compliance

“When it comes to spam, the U.S.-based spammers are the driving force, and assertions that the majority of spam comes from overseas simply aren’t true,” Paul Judge, chief technology officer at CipherTrust, said in a statement.

“CipherTrust’s findings reveal not only most spam on the Internet originates in the United States, but also the people sending those messages are relatively few in number, likely totaling about 200 spammers,” he added.

The company also found that some spammers have adopted a veneer of compliance with the Can-Spam Act to avoid prosecution by government authorities.

Snail Mail

Many spammers are bending the rules to comply with the legislation, the company noted. For example, the law requires a link be included in an unsolicited message allowing recipients to “opt out” of receiving future mailings.

“While these spammers are in fact providing unsubscribe links, they also are making the process more complicated by requesting unsubscribe appeals be sent via postal mail,” the company reported. “Requiring such effort from e-mail users greatly lessens the chances they will in fact unsubscribe, but enables the spammer to continue sending messages to the same recipients and violates the spirit of the legislation.”

Many spammers, though, see that kind of left-handed compliance unnecessary. “As people are getting arrested, it’s not really making much difference at people’s desktops and their e-mail in boxes,” said Cluley, of Sophos.

He noted that more and more people are jumping into the spammer’s shoes, and saying, “Here’s a quick way top make a buck. I can do this relatively anonymously. The chances of me being caught are quite small.”

“So we are seeing more people getting involved in spam than ever before,” he said.

Asian Connection

Trailing the United States in the Dirty Dozen standings were South Korea, with 15.42 percent, and China-Hong Kong, with 11.62 percent.

“Korea has a useless antispam law modeled on Can-Spam,” Steve Linford, CEO and Founder of the SpamHaus Project, a worldwide organization of spam fighters, told TechNewsWorld. “Spammers are laughing at it and sending out huge volumes of spam from Korea.”

Spammers can get hosting easily in places like China and South Korea because the amounts they’re prepared to pay for the services seem enormous to the locals, according to Linford.

“They’ll offer small Chinese ISPs the equivalent of $1,000 a month to host Viagra web sites and just turn a blind eye to incoming complaints,” he explained. “That’s an absolute fortune for him.”

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