[ISN] U.S. Remains Dirtiest Spammer, But China Makes More Malware

From: InfoSec News (alerts@private)
Date: Mon Jan 22 2007 - 23:17:07 PST

By Gregg Keizer
Jan 22, 2007

The United States again led the world as a spam producing, malware 
hosting country last year, a security vendor said Monday, but China took 
top dishonor as the nation that generated the most malicious code in 

Sophos, which published its annual threat roundup Monday, said 
U.S.-based computers were responsible for sending 22% of the year's 
spam, with China second at 15.9%, and South Korea third at 7.4%. Nine 
out of every 10 spam messages sent worldwide were sent from so-called 
"zombies," computers that were hijacked and sent messages without their 
owners' knowledge.

"On a per-capita basis, the U.S. has a disproportionate number of PCs, 
and a disproportionate number of them are unprotected," says Ron 
O'Brien, senior security analyst for Sophos. The machines make an 
inviting target for spammers, who collect the purloined PCs in botnets 
that they then use for their spam runs.

Other nations have made better progress than the United States in 
blocking spammers, according to Sophos. South Korea, for instance, once 
the number-two spamming country, has slipped to third after successful 
efforts were waged to educate users to secure their machines, while 
Canada has fallen from the fifth spot in 2005 to 17th in 2006, thanks to 
authorities' work in pushing ISPs to separate compromised systems from 
their networks.

The United States also led the globe in hosting malware, reported 
Sophos; its servers accounted for 34.2% of all Web-based malicious code. 
China again held second place, with 31%. "The U.S. market is undeniably 
a target for online criminal activity. More and more, organizations with 
U.S.-based Web sites are falling victim to targeted attacks," says 

In one important category, however, the United States failed to finish 
in the top five.

"Thirty percent of the malware written during 2006 came from China," 
says O'Brien. "Most of it was designed to steal logons and passwords 
related to online games." When asked why Chinese malware targets online 
gaming rather than, say, bank accounts, O'Brien says games "seem to have 
more of a cultural significance than strictly finance. It's like an 
American hacking MySpace."

Brazil, meanwhile, accounted for 14.2% of the world's malicious code, 
and consisted mainly of Trojan horses that targeted online banking 
services. Russia, Sweden, and Ukraine came in third through fifth by 
producing 4.1%, 3.8%, and 3.4% of all malware studied by Sophos' 
forensics engineers.

But percentages don't tell the whole story. "Russia was responsible for 
some of the more malicious malware," says O'Brien. "In Russia, [hacking] 
is primarily an organized crime activity."

One of the few bright spots in 2006, says O'Brien, was the dramatic 
decrease in infected e-mail, messages that contain a malicious Trojan, 
worm, or virus payload. During 2005, one in 44 messages were infected 
(2.2%); last year, only one in 337 messages carried a malicious payload 

But the drop doesn't mean cybercrooks have given up on e-mail, just that 
they've switched tactics.

"While the number of e-mails containing malware has dropped, we've seen 
an increase in the number that links to a malicious URL," O'Brien says. 
"During 2006, as many as 5,000 new URLs a day were hosting malicious 

Sophos' 2006 report [1] can be downloaded as a PDF file from the 
company's Web site.

[1] http://www.sophos.com/securityreport2007

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