The United States tops the "Dirty Dozen" list of spam-producing countries released by security firm Sophos. "The problem is that there is so much money to be made with spam, and it is very easy to set up a spam operation," says Sophos senior technology consultant Graham Cluley.

Despite government efforts to combat spam, the U.S. produces more of the annoying and often dangerous mass e-mail campaigns than any other country, according to research conducted by security Latest News about Security software provider Sophos.

In releasing its list of the "dirty dozen" spam-producing nations, Sophos reports that the U.S. is responsible for exporting 42.5 percent of all junk e-mail. South Korea is a distant second at 15.4 percent -- but on the rise, while China and Hong Kong are third at 11.6 percent.

Easy Money

In compiling the results, Sophos researchers scanned all spam messages received at its global network of e-mail "honeypots" in the last month.

Passage of the CAN-SPAM act late last year in the U.S. apparently has had little impact on spam production, Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos, told NewsFactor. "The problem is that there is so much money to be made with spam, and it is very easy to set up a spam operation," he explained.

South Korea, with the most broadband Latest News about Broadband users in the world, has nearly tripled the percentage of spam originating from its shores since February, Cluley noted. The good news is that Canada has decreased its contribution to the world's overall junk e-mail by more than half -- from 6.8 percent six months ago to 2.9 percent today.

Law Enforcement Responds

A particular problem is that more spammers are launching phishing attacks, hacking into innocent third-party computers and exploiting broadband Internet connections, said Cluley. PCs that have been compromised by hackers or virus writers are sending out some 40 percent of the world's spam, with most victims unaware of the hijacking of their machines.

The Sophos findings come just as the U.S. Justice Department is poised to announce a number of cybercrime arrests involving spammers and others involved in online scams, including phishing attacks.

"That is a positive development, but the problem is so widespread that it probably won't have a major impact. There are a lot of people ready to step into the shoes of those who are arrested," said Cluley.

Protect Yourself

Too many people are being lured into buying the products flogged by spammers, said Cluley, and many are leaving their machines vulnerable by not installing e-mail filters, he said.

Sophos recommends that users avoid purchasing anything advertised via spam and deploy protection measures at the e-mail gateway, which can guard against both spam and viruses. "We are also calling on ISPs to work harder at identifying and dropping support for spammers," Cluley said.

Spam represents some 70 percent of all e-mail for many Internet users, although the extent of the problem is hard to quantify, said Cluley.

Global Effort

International cooperation and a willingness to arrest perpetrators, is critical in halting the spam epidemic, Cluley suggests. Along those lines, law-enforcement agencies from the U.S., the United Kingdom and Australia last month joined forces in an international effort to thwart those sending illegal mass e-mails.

The agencies have agreed to share information, cooperate in detecting and investigating spam violations, cooperate in tracking spammers, exchange evidence, facilitate law enforcement against spammers and coordinate enforcement against international spam violations.

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