U.S. Leads the Way in Malware, Spam

By Brian Prince  |  Posted 2009-07-22 Print this article Print

The United States is No. 1 - in malware.

I'm guessing there is no gold medal for that. But the United States did get top mention in Sophos' latest Security Threat Report. According to the company, nearly 40 percent of all Web malware is hosted in the United States.

This is a dramatic change from 2007, when Sophos reported that more than 50 percent of Web malware was hosted in China. In the latest report, China (including Hong Kong) was hosting 14.7 percent.

From the report: "The proportion of the world's malware hosted in China has halved from 31.3 percent in the first period of 2008, to 14.7 percent today. However, it's worth remembering that during the same period the volume of infected Web pages detected by Sophos quadrupled around the globe."

More to the point, Sophos now discovers roughly 23,500 malicious Web pages per day -- one every 3.6 seconds. Within that number are 15 new fake anti-virus vendor Web sites. The number of those sites has tripled from an average of five per day in 2008.

In addition to malware, the United States is the top spam-relaying country in the world. The country is now responsible for 15.7 percent of all spam. The silver medal in that category goes to Brazil, with 10.7 percent.

That spam isn't always coming through e-mail, though. Increasingly, spammers are turning to instant messaging applications like MSN Chat to dodge spam filters. In June, Sophos observed a spam campaign in which a botnet "disguised" as a woman would send flirtatious messages and try to trick the victim into visiting a rogue site.

Spammers are abusing social networks as well, as are malware authors.

"What's needed is a period of introspection -- for the big Web 2.0 companies to examine their systems and determine how, now that they have gathered a huge number of members, they are going to protect them from virus writers, identity thieves, spammers and scammers," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. "The honeymoon period of these sites is over, and personally identifiable information is at risk as a result of constant attacks that the Websites are simply not mature enough to protect against."

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