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Mother Nature may be hitting back at the scourge of spam-filled inboxes, according to IE Internet.

The web hosting and monitoring firm believes the recent earthquake that hit Taiwan in late December may be responsible for a reduction in spam and virus rates for January, although a monstrous 53.12 per cent of emails were spam - above last year's average of 52 per cent.

A quake measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale badly damaged around eight submarine fibre-optic cables on the seafloor of the Bashi channel between Taiwan and the Philippines, causing severe disruption to internet and telephone networks in Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, South Korea, and Japan.

Keen spam watchers and connoisseurs of this nefarious inbox abuse will note the inclusion of spam-producing nations China and Korea in the above list, and the quake's damage to their telecommunications infrastructure means these countries have not made the list of major spam sources this month for the first time in living memory.

IE Internet's figures show a sharp 10 per cent drop in spam for January, and a three per cent reduction in viruses. More than a quarter of all spam that landed into the 35,000 business Irish inboxes monitored by IE Internet originated from the US in January, while Russia and Brazil were also major culprits.

"We have seen a significant drop in spam in January," IE Internet managing director Phelim O'Connell said. "But unfortunately, the long term trend is an increase."

O'Connell further cautioned against complacency, with a warning that organised criminal empires are orchestrating the seemingly innocuous annoyance of spam.

"Email users should remain cautious as more viruses are being written to order by large international spam rings," O'Connell said.

Nearly 12 per cent of emails contained viruses in January, according to IE Internet's figures. Zafi.B was the most prevalent infection, followed by other W32 mutants: Warezov.gen!W32DL and that bad penny Mytob.CQ.

Copyright © 2007, ENN

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