Experts at SophosLabs scanned all spam messages received in the company's global network of spam traps, and have
"Two years ago, the US accounted for over half of all spam sent to the world - now it is less than a quarter, evidence which confirms that more Americans are waking up to the need to protect their home computers from malicious hackers," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "More and more viruses, worms and Trojan horses are being designed to take over innocent users' computers with the intention of stealing information and sending out junk email campaigns."
Helped by legislation such as CAN-SPAM and greater information sharing by Internet Service Providers (ISPs), the US has led the way in imposing severe penalties and fines for its most prolific spammers. During the first quarter of 2006, several gang members responsible for distributing massive quantities of pornography admitted their involvement in a criminal spam ring. Jennifer Clason of New Hampshire, Andrew Ellifson of Arizona, and Kirk Rogers of California were part of a gang that spammed out millions of emails advertising hardcore adult websites, and are scheduled to be sentenced in the next few months.
"We're seeing spammers being successfully brought to justice in the US, but it's important to remember that they can be based anywhere in the world. In fact, the vast majority of spam is generated from zombie computers - hijacked PCs infected by malware," continued Cluley. "A combination of technology, legal action, user education and international co-operation is needed to truly make spam a thing of the past."
The reduction in US-relayed spam has had a significant impact on the rest of the chart, with China now closer than ever to the top. Poland, Spain and Germany all saw their spam-relaying percentages rise between Q4 2005, and Q1 2006, while the UK, which was absent altogether from the Q4 2005 dirty dozen, has now re-entered the table in tenth position. These changes have helped Europe challenge North America for second position in the top spam-relaying continents.
"Europe is in danger of overtaking North America as the second worst spam-relaying part of the world. This continental shift is inevitable because as North America's percentage continues to fall, the rest of the world is witnessing a rise," explained Cluley. "It's imperative that computer users worldwide put better defences in place to prevent their computers from being converted into spam-spewing zombies."
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Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 25 years of experience working in Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.