The Spam Report, February 2009

New botnets in Asia and Latin America are causing a surge in unwanted messages around the world

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By  Vineetha Menon Published  February 8, 2009

While the United States is still the top region for spam, new botnets in Asia and Latin America are taking the reigns to drive aggressive spam campaigns.

Though 23% of spam messages originate from the United States today, online security experts believe that figure will continue to decline over time as more people around the world gain access to the internet and engage in cybercrime.

The latest spam report from Symatec shows that Colombia and Argentina have joined the top ten regions for initiating spam, while Brazil has notably climbed to second place behind the United States.

For the past few months, India and China have also retained their positions among the list.

There are several reasons behind the shift in regional spam origins including the fact that increased investment in internet and IT infrastructure is spawning a new internet user base.

Countries such as Brazil, India and China have a burgeoning middle class where internet penetration is high and access to broadband is rising. It’s also obvious that IT security laws and policies vary around the world, and an emphasis on security might not always be a priority concern.

When the McColo hosting company was shut down early in November last year, it was predicted that spammers would find it difficult to get their messages out easily in the short term. Sure enough, spam levels have indeed risen in recent weeks and are back to pre-McColo levels, accounting for more than 79% of all email today with the presence of active zombies around the world playing a significant part in the situation.

In addition to a shift in the regions of origin for spam, a change in the type of spam message post-McColo has also been observed. Between October 2008 and January 2009, there have been a number of changes in spam levels by category: Health (+3%), Leisure (+3%), Product (+4%), Financial (-5%), and Internet (-3%).

It’s February – the month when love is in the air and on everyone’s mind, including spammers. Taking advantage with campaigns that revolve around Valentine’s Day, there has been a spike in messages containing the words ‘Feb 14’, ‘February 14’ and ‘Cupid’ offering a variety of romantic gifts including gift cards and fake watches to recipients.

While new campaigns are being hatched by spammers every time, old ones like the Nigerian scam haven’t gone away either. Also known as the 419 spam or advance fee fraud, it informs recipients that they are entitled to a sum of money by way of a fake lottery, a retired government official or a wealthy person that has passed away.

Recently, nearly 3% of all spam messages was categorized as Nigerian spam, which is a significant portion of emails received by people around the world every single day.

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