The U.S. again snatched the top prize as the world's leading spam throughway for the third year in a row.
The good news is that the amount of spam channelled through computers in the U.S. is down significantly, dropping from about 56 percent of the worldwide total in 2004, according to a report just released by security solutions provider Sophos Plc.
The bad news is that spammers are getting a lot smarter and it's getting tougher to protect personal and business computers against viruses, spyware and malicious computer hijacking, said Gregg Mastoras, Sophos' senior security analyst.
In the latest Sophos report, the U.S. is at the top of the hit parade, but China and Hong Kong share a close second, with 20 percent of the worldwide total.
South Korea, France and Spain are distant contenders with percentages ranging from less than 5 percent to 7.5 percent, according to the report.
Asia accounts for more spam than any other continent, and spam relaying continues to rise in the European nations, edging out North America for that No. 2 spot, the report pointed out.
Japan is in last place, accounting for 1.6 percent of the spam relay traffic.
Russia is conspicuously absent from the "dirty dozen" list, although activities in that country suggest Russian spammers may be the source of much of the world's spam-related traffic.
Spammers there presently control networks of hijacked zombie PCs, which quietly pump out floods of email without bidding owners knowing about it, explained Sophos.
The country also does a brisk business in selling black market email address lists for as little as $50 per 1 million address.
Sophos provides endpoint security solutions to businesses, ISPs, schools and other organizations. The company's Sophos Labs captures and analyzes email worldwide to check for spam and uses its analysis to develop new products.
"We are continuously improving our software on a daily basis to prevent spam from getting through," Mastoras told internetnews.com.
"But, there are lots of people in Eastern Europe, Russia and South America who spend lots of time figuring out how to get around our systems. That's the way the game is typically played."
One reason why the flow of spam through the U.S. has decreased is the Federal CAN-SPAM Act, which has been in effect since 2003 to help curb unsolicited commercial email.
MX Logic, an email-filtering company, and service provider America Online, last year reported significant declines in spam-related email since the law's inception.
Lawmakers have also targeted suspected spammers with legislation designed to punish them.
"There have been lots of high-profile indictments and jail time of some of the larger spammers," noted Mastoras.
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