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Want to stop spam email? Try an earthquake

The amount of spam email originating in China dropped dramatically in the first three months of 2007, according to security vendor Sophos. This bucked a trend of growth in worldwide spam. But while the Chinese government and ISPs have worked hard to cut back on junk email, experts feel that its biggest spam-prevention mechanism was... an earthquake. That's big.

According to Sophos, the overall volume of spam increased about 4.2 percent during the first quarter of 2007, compared to the same period in 2006.

Around this time 12 months ago computers in China were sending out 21.1 percent of the world's spam messages. But China's spam email production has dropped over the past year. Over the first three months of this year it accounted for just 7.5 percent of the world's junk mail, Sophos said.

So China may be set to take over the world in sport, commerce and polluting, but it has a ways to go before it can wrest spamming pre-eminence from the US. And the rise of European spam continues apace - it's not just the UK building trade that is becoming increasingly Polish.

During the first seven days of 2007 China accounted for only 1.7 percent of spam messages, said Sophos security consultant Carole Theriault. "We saw a really significant drop in China at the beginning of this term," she said.

"It's almost as if some ISPs were taken offline."

Which may be apposite. On boxing day last year, earthquakes off the coast of Taiwan damaged underwater data cables and disrupted internet access in Asia.

But we do have to give some of the credit to a countrywide spam crack down, according to Theriault. "China has been working to reduce its spam for some time now," she said.

While spammers are on the run in Asia, spam email is in vogue in several European countries. A mighty 5 percent of the world's spam during the first three months of 2007 could be traced back to computers hooked up via a single Polish ISP, Theriault said.

She wouldn't say which ISP it was, but she did reveal it was the most spamming ISP in the world… ever! Poland now accounts for 7.4 percent of worldwide spam, nearly as much as China, which is a big effort.

Italy, France, Germany and Spain are also included on Sophos' "Dirty Dozen" list of countries originating the most spam.

So were our cousins across the pond - the world's top spammers. Although the US was once the source of nearly half the world's spam, in 2006 it produced only 23.2 percent.

In the first three months of this year the number was a mere 19.8 percent. This is a much more modest drop than seen in China, and can probably be attributed to the rise of spamming in Europe. But rule Britannia, this small island remains clean. Here's the full Dirty Dozen of top spammers in the first quarter of 2007:

  • US 19.8%
  • China (including Hong Kong) 7.5%
  • Poland 7.4%
  • South Korea 7.0%
  • Italy 5.0%
  • France 4.1%
  • Germany 3.7%
  • Spain 3.5%
  • Brazil 3.1%
  • Russia 3.0%
  • India 2.8%
  • Taiwan 2.5%

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