The US increased its lead at the top spot, and continues to be responsible for nearly one in five junk emails, representing 18.6 per cent of all spam messages, according to global IT security firm Sophos.
The US’s domination of the list underlines the continuing problem of computers being compromised by hackers in the country, allowing them to be remotely controlled for criminal purposes without the owners’ knowledge.
The UK decreased its percentage of total spam output compared to the third quarter of last year – from 5 per cent to 4.54 per cent – however, it remains in fifth place overall.
Sophos notes that, while the some countries continue to dominate in terms of spam output, the nature of the spam being distributed is becoming more malicious.
Traditional subject matter such as adverts for pharmaceuticals are still a concern, with some 36 million Americans reported to purchase drugs from unlicensed online sellers. But more and more messages are spreading malware and attempting to phish user names, passwords and personal information.
The top 12 spam-relaying countries for October to December 2010 are as follows:
- USA – 18.83%
- India – 6.88%
- Brazil – 5.04%
- Russia – 4.64%
- UK – 4.54%
- France – 3.45%
- Italy – 3.17%
- South Korea – 3.01%
- Germany – 2.99%
- Vietnam – 2.79%
- Romania – 2.25%
- Spain – 2.24%
56 South Africa – 0.23%
Other – 40.17%
Sophos warns that there has also been an increase in more focused, targeted email attacks, known as “spearphishing”.
The company added that it continues to receive an increased number of reports of malicious applications, compromised profiles and unwanted messages spreading across social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
“Spam is certainly here to stay, however, the motivations and the methods are continuing to change in order to reap the greatest rewards for the spammers,” says Brett Myroff, chief executive of regional Sophos distributor, Sophos South Africa.
“Becoming even more prevalent is the mailing of links to compromised web pages, where victims are tricked into clicking a link in an email, and then taken to a site which attacks their computer with exploits or attempts to install fake anti-virus software.”
For Q4 2010, Europe decreased its overall percentage of relayed spam messages compared to Q3.
Top spam-relaying continents for October to December 2010 are as follows:
- Europe – 32.11%
- Asia – 31.89%
- North America – 22.38%
- South America – 10.25%
- Africa – 2.12%
“Internet users need to be aware of the new approaches to cyber crime as the spamming techniques become more and more sophisticated. As long as spammers continue to make money from these schemes, Internet users can be sure that they’ll continue to receive unsolicited emails and social networking scams. To combat this, it’s essential that users remain wary of clicking on unknown links, regardless of whether they appear to be on a trusted contact’s social networking page,” Myroff says.