U.S. Sending More Than Half of All Spam

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While the flood of spam has increased sharply during the last sixmonths, a new survey also shows that slightly more than half of itworldwide is coming out of the U.S.

In January of this year, there were nearly 350,000 unique spam outbreaksevery day, according to a report from Commtouch Software Ltd, ananti-spam company based in Mountain View, Calif. As of last month,however, that number had jumped to 500,000.

And according to Commtouch's survey, which country has the most spamoffenders?

The United States, sending out 55.7 percent of all spam moving aroundthe world. South Korea came in a far second, sending out 10.2 percent,and China ranked third with 6.6 percent.

Michael Osterman, founder and president of Black Diamond, Wa.-basedOsterman Research, Inc., says the U.S. is a major source of spam becauseof the great number of high-speed connections here.

''So much spam is being generated by people who don't even know they'respammers,'' says Osterman. ''They don't know that their computers havebeen compromised and they're being used as zombies sending out spam allover the world.''

As for the amount of spam that is flooding corporate networks andpersonal inboxes, that he is surprised about.

''It is surprising. It's surprising that it's as low as it is,'' headds. ''The wide deployment of spam filters is causing spammers to sendout even more spam simply to get some through.''

A report released last month by MessageLabs, Inc., an email managementand security company based in New York, showed that nine out of 10emails in the U.S. are now spam. Globally, 76 percent of all emails arespam.

And Osterman says the problem is only going to get worse.

''In the next year to a year and a half, spam will account for 98percent of all email,'' he says. ''That's being pessimistic some wouldsay. The optimistic forecast is that it will only get to 95 percent.

''But it's not all doom and gloom,'' Osterman adds. ''You have to lookat the effectiveness of spam filters... If you're an enterprise user,the spam problem is probably about over if your organization hasimplemented a strong spam filter. It's like a missile shield over yourcompany.''

But erecting that missile shield and paying IT workers to run it is aproblem for IT organizations that is only getting worse, according toMark Levitt, vice president for collaborative computing at Framingham,Ma.-based IDC.

''There's still the same issue of wasted time in terms of users openingmessages with misleading subject lines,'' says Levitt. ''And there arewasted IT resources trying to block this spam, the waste of storage andbandwidth, and the money spent fighting spam.''

Levitt says the positive side of the Commtouch study is the sectionshowing that the amount of pornographic spam is down.

The Commtouch study shows that offers for drugs top the list, accountingfor 29.5 percent of all spam. Mortgage/refinancing comes in second with9.7 percent, and organ enlargement comes in third with 7 percent.Pornography is in ninth place with 3.1 percent.

''It's a step in the right direction,'' says Levitt. ''It's lessoffensive.''

But Osterman says not to expect the amount of pornography to continuedropping.

''This could be a short-term anomaly anyhow,'' he notes. ''There arevery few large spammers. If a few of the big players have a change instrategy and turn to different offerings, it could change the mixdramatically. Over the long term, I think the percentage of pornographicspam is going to increase. Selling physical goods that have to beshipped complicates things. But you can be in any part of the world andeasily sell access to a porn Web site.''

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