India’s tech rise brings spam crown

Michael Fitzgerald By Michael Fitzgerald

Sometimes it’s no good being number one. India, for instance, was tabbed as the top offender in three reports on spam, a catch-all term for unwanted commercial e-mail. Spam ranges from direct marketing e-mail to fraudulent schemes to e-mail containing viruses and other malicious code. The reports came from three companies that make anti-spam and other security software, Kaspersky Labs, Sophos and Trend Micro.

Spammers can rent ‘botnets’ through online marketplaces. This is a photo of Dark Market, which the FBI used to bust cybercriminals. (Reuters)

Sophos said India had raced up its charts over the last year to best longtime spam champ America, a crown we in the States are happy to outsource. India’s “share” of the spam market for the first quarter of 2012 was 9.3 percent, meaning that nearly one in ten spam e-mails came via computers in India.

Kaspersky’s monthly reports for January, February and March had India atop all three, though the U.S. was not a top source of spam. Instead, Indonesia, Brazil, Vietnam and South Korea rounded out the top five.

Meanwhile, Trend Micro said that 20 percent of the world’s spam now comes from Indian computers, ahead of Indonesia, South Korea and Russia. Those four countries account for 55 percent of the world’s spam, Trend Micro said (download the report here and see page 7). That’s a much larger percentage for the top four than were cited by Kaspersky and Sophos.

Regardless of the above variations, that India is now the world’s leading source of spam signals rapid growth in its consumer PC market. Spammers hijack PCs by sneaking small bits of code onto them through methods like having unsuspecting users click on a link in an e-mail. The spammers then link these PCs into giant networks of computers, called botnets, that allow them to bypass provisions in place at most Internet Service Providers against sending bulk e-mail. That India rules the spam roost is in part a factor of having 100 million Internet users, the third largest in the world behind the U.S. and China.

Other factors creating Indian spam: India’s new netizens may not protect themselves against spammers. Of course, there is a reason why spam reports come from companies that sell spam prophylactics, and that reason is marketing. But it is reasonable to suggest that Internet newcomers are more likely to fall for online cons.

Along those lines, India’s CIOL, a technology publication, speculated that Indians with new PCs simply don’t know that sending a message to a few dozen friends is considered spamming. It might be that Indians aren’t spam-crazed, but unused to netiquette.

To their credit, Sophos and Kaspersky noted in blog posts that spam overall was down. Sophos argued that’s because spammers are shifting to social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Kaspersky thinks it has to do with a major botnet being shutdown.

Whatever the reason, less spam is a technology trend we can all cheer for.

Straight to the Source