Australia among world's top spam producers: report
September 24, 2012Australia has emerged as a global leader in the production of spam, according to a new international report.
Other security software providers have disputed the findings, but AVG Technologies said Australian sources generate more dangerous and unwanted email than Russia, Canada and Holland.
The company, recently listed on the New York Stock Exchange, puts Australia in sixth place for spam origination, providing 3.1 per cent of global spam between April and June this year.
The United States led the list with a massive 42.2 per cent of the total tracked by AVG for 2012's second quarter. Britain (8.5 per cent), France (5.1 per cent), Germany (4.6 per cent) and Brazil (3.4 per cent) were next, but it was Australia's inclusion on the list that stood out.
“It could be compromised email servers, compromised machines, that are sending spam,” said Yuval Ben-Itzhak, AVG's chief technology officer.
“The spammers don't want to send it from their own servers because they will be shut down immediately. So they use spam malware and it is not a malware that is necessarily trying to steal anything from you as an individual, but basically using your computer and mostly the IP address to send spam around the world.
“[The numbers are] just for this particular quarter. When we analyse the spam messages that our software detects and look at the regional IP, it was coming from Australia.”
Analysis from another security company, McAfee, supported AVG's detection of an Australian spike, but Michael Sentonas, McAfee's chief technology officer, Asia Pacific, said a number six global ranking seemed unusually high.
“We did see a small increase over the second quarter period in servers hosting malicious content,” said Sentonas. “[But] I think that is a very high number for Australia, and talking to some of the leading ISPs in Australia over the last week I don't think they would agree. Spam volume that we have tracked from January through to July has stayed basically flat.”
A Symantec spokesman, meanwhile, flagged AVG's figures, claiming its own latest analysis suggested Australia did not even rank in the top 20 of source countries for sending spam.
The AVG report is also at odds with a report from SophosLabs which did not include Australia in its "dirty dozen" list of spam originators between January and June 2012. The SophosLabs report puts India (11.4 percent), Italy (7 per cent), South Korea (6.7 per cent), USA (6.2 per cent), Vietnam (5.8 per cent) and Brazil (4.4 per cent) in the top six. Taiwan was twelveth on the list with 2.6 per cent.
At the time of writing, Australian ISP's BigPond, iiNet and Primus did not respond to requests for comment from ITPro but AVG stands by its data and analysis.
“There was something that happened in this quarter that should require some action,” said Ben-Itzhak, speaking at the launch of AVG's 2013 product list in New York.
“We will see what we end up with for the next quarter. We need to see if it was specific for this quarter, where there was an attack happening and it was shut off, or if this is a rolling issue.”
Ben-Itzhak said Australia was not unique as a virtual launch pad for criminal endeavour but spam and related types of cyber-crime were providing high levels of return on investment for savvy criminals.
“Otherwise they would not invest in innovation,” he said. “Multiple people working hard, constantly innovating, constantly getting traction means they are making money.
“Attacks are coming from everywhere. The malware creators are typically coming from Eastern Europe and Russia but that doesn't mean you won't find someone in the US or Asia. That's the so-called beauty of cyber-crime. The law is local but the crime is global.
"You can sit in one country, do the crime in another country, and target people from a third country. It gives a lot of challenges to law enforcement.”