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Spam: now made in China

And viruses make a festive season appearance

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The politics of unwanted email is changing with China set to overtake the US any day now as the originator of most Irish inbox clutter.

Figures for November from Irish email monitoring firm IE Internet show that although the US is still the world leader with 27 per cent of dodgy emails originating there, this is a huge drop on October's figure of 48 per cent.

The People's Republic of China is now pumping out nearly 26 per cent of all spam filtered by IE Internet - an increase on the previous month's figure of just under 10 per cent.

China is now second in the monthly world rankings of spam-producing countries, followed by Britain (21 per cent), France (15 per cent), India (seven per cent), and Turkey (four per cent). South Korea doesn't figure in the top six global spam machines for the first time in several months.

"The United States is continuing to decline as a source of spam emails," Ken O'Driscoll of IE Internet told ENN. "We've been predicting this for some time as US-based spammers are actively off-shoring their operations to avoid tough US anti-spam laws.

"I would predict that the US will not be the top source of spam next year," he added.

Overall, however, the quantity of emails labelled spam by IE Internet actually fell to 55.6 per cent for November, compared to 57.3 per cent last month.

Meanwhile, as the world's spam merchants have been getting ready for their Christmas onslaught, virus writers have been busy too.

Two new viruses made it into the top five this month: W32/Warezov and W32/Tricky-Malware. And both are spreading fast, according to IE Internet.

The overall rate of emails carrying a virus increased to over 11 per cent for November - a slight but noticeable increase on nearly 10 per cent last month.

W32/Warezov was the main offender at 25 per cent of all viruses detected, followed by the other newcomer W32/Tricky-Malware at just over 15 per cent. Old favourite Netsky.BR came in third after being detected in nearly nine per cent of virus-riddled emails.

"For the past number of months, the rate of virus infections has been declining as home users continue to buy brand new PCs which have virus protection installed as standard," said O'Driscoll. "New viruses - which appear all the time - were not good enough or well written to be able to rapidly infect large numbers of PCs."

However, O'Driscoll warned that the two new viruses on the block were worth watching out for.

"Basically, they are both worms which spread via email," explained O'Driscoll. "The home user still has to click on an attachment and open it. They pose as security updates to the operating system, so perhaps as a social engineering tool this fools people.

"The viruses allow your computer to be remotely controlled - possibly to send spam out anonymously but for anything really - even accessing your personal files.

"The really interesting thing about the W32/Warezov virus is that it actually connects to the internet periodically and updates itself to the latest version. This is what legitimate software such as operating systems have been doing for years."

O'Driscoll warned this remote-update feature may make these viruses harder to remove from PCs.

Copyright © 2006, ENN

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