IT security and data protection firm Sophos has published the latest 'Dirty Dozen' of spam relaying countries, covering the first quarter of 2012. In the space of a year, India has overtaken the United States to become the top global contributor of junk messages, being responsible for relaying one in ten spam emails.
Most spam comes from home computers that have been compromised by hackers. Zombies are the infected computers that form networks called botnets. Botnets are used by cybercriminals to send spam, steal information and launch DDoS 'denial of service' attacks, in which all the zombie computers are told to access a single website at once, forcing it offline.
"The latest stats show that, as more first-time internet users get online in growing economies, they are not taking measures to block the malware infections that turn their PCs into spam-spewing zombies,"said Graham Cluley, Senior Technology Consultant, Sophos.
India's rise to the top spot comes as the number of new internet users in the country is growing very rapidly, suggesting that computers in the country are not properly protected and that ISPs are not taking spam as seriously as they should.
At the same time last year, the UK resided in sixth place in the table, contributing 3.2 percent of global spam. Since then, it has fallen off the Dirty Dozen entirely and, in terms of sheer numbers, UK spam has decreased by 47 percent.
Overall throughput of global email spam messages has decreased since Q1 2011, partly because of better work by ISPs around the world, but also reflecting a change in tactics by cybercriminals.
Spammers are increasingly finding traditional email spam ineffective, turning to social networks to spread these kinds of marketing spam campaigns instead.
While basic marketing spam decreases, the amount of messages that spread malware or that represent more targeted attempts to phish usernames, passwords and personal information is increasing. "While traditional marketing spam may appear to be no more than an annoyance, offering pills that have questionable claims or to get you rich quick, they can often to lead to more serious threats to your personal information," said Cluley.
Spammers are increasingly taking advantage of other platforms to spread their messages. Facebook and Twitter have for some time been targeted with campaigns but, most recently, hot new social network Pinterest has been used by spammers to distribute posts linking to webpages offering to sell goods, or earning commission for the spammers.
Sophos recommends that companies automatically update their corporate virus protection, and run a consolidated solution at their email and web gateways to defend against spam and viruses. Home users are advised to defend their computers with virus protection, to prevent becoming part of a botnet used for the purposes of sending spam.
Most recently, hot new social network Pinterest has been used by spammers to distribute posts linking to webpages offering to sell goods, or earning commission for the spammers
While traditional marketing spam may appear to be no more than an annoyance they can often to lead to more serious threats to your personal information