Guess who still leads the world in sending out spam

The United States is responsible for almost one in five spam e-mails sent out, according to Sophos, a data protection and security company. Second place isn't even close.

The United States is responsible for almost one in five spam e-mails sent out, according to Sophos, a data protection and security company.

According to a new report that tracks the top spamming countries, 18.8 percent of all junk e-mail originated from the United States between October and December 2010. This figure gives the United States a huge lead over second-place India, which is responsible for 6.9 percent of worldwide spam. Sophos measured data from the fourth quarter of last year as part of a "Dirty Dozen" spam report.

Sophos warned that, while spam e-mails are increasing (especially in the United States, which saw an increase of 0.23 percent over Q3 numbers), they are also becoming more malicious.

"Traditional subject matter such as advertisements for pharmaceuticals continue to be a concern, with some 36 million Americans reported to purchase drugs from unlicensed online sellers -- but more and more messages are spreading malware and are attempting to phish user names, passwords and personal information," Sophos explained in a statement.

The report also warned that a technique called "spearphishing" is on the rise, based on more targeted e-mail campaigns. Spearphishing is a ruse to get sensitive information by targeting a group of people within the same organization, using insider details to gain trust, according to an FBI description.

Another problem is the proliferation of spam e-mails that direct users to Web sites offering bogus protection software.

"What's becoming even more prevalent is the mailing of links to poisoned Web pages -- victims are tricked into clicking a link in an email, and then led to a site that attacks their computer with exploits or attempts to implant fake anti-virus software," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, in a released statement. He added that spam continues to persist, although the motivations and methods change.

Sophos urges organizations to regularly update their virus-blocking software.

Here's the complete list of Sophos' "Dirty Dozen" for the final quarter of 2010:

  1. United States (18.8 percent)
  2. India (6.9 percent)
  3. Brazil (5.0 percent)
  4. Russia ( 4.6 percent)
  5. United Kingdom (4.5 percent)
  6. France (3.4 percent)
  7. Italy (3.2 percent)
  8. South Korea (3.0 percent)
  9. Germany (2.9 percent)
  10. Vietnam (2.8 percent)
  11. Romania (2.2 percent)
  12. Spain (2.2 percent)
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