Security company Sophos has published a quarterly report on the top twelve spam-relaying countries, and says the United States holds the top spot, but seems to be making progress in curbing unwanted bulk e-mail.
According to the company, the final quarter of 2005 was the first time the United States was responsible for less than a quarter of all spam relayed. At the same time, non-English spam is on the rise, and generally the product of malware or malicious intent.
"The vast majority [is] now being relayed by 'zombie' computers hijacked by Trojan horses, worms and viruses under the control of hackers," reported the company in a statement.
"Sizable increases are also happening in 'pump-and-dump' stock spam, designed to artificially inflate stock prices before spammers sell shares at considerable profit," the statement continued.
Sophos noted that CAN-SPAM and more cooperation between ISPs put the United States on top in terms of imposing penalties on spammers, pointing out an $11.2 billion settlement against one spammer and prison terms faced by others.
"It's good news for the US - the tougher sentences being dished out are clearly making spammers feel the heat," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. "However, it's not such good news for Bill Gates's skills as a fortune teller, as spam is clearly not a thing of the past. Email users worldwide are still being bombarded by all manner of unsolicited messages, and it must be said that, two years on, Gates' famous prediction now looks extraordinarily optimistic."
The company also noted South Korea moved out of second place, due to substantial drops in the amount of spam relayed by systems in that country, and that the United Kingdom has fallen out of the top 12 altogether.
The company also said the multinational nature of spam provides some hint at the source of the spam problem.
"Zombie computers - responsible for relaying more than 60% of the world's spam - can allow spammers to escape country-specific legislation, as they no longer have to be located in the same country as the spamming machines they operate," read the statement.