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Pitcairn Island relays most spam per person

South Sea junk mail mutiny

Website security in corporate America

Pitcairn Island, the final South Sea island refuge of the Bounty mutineers, relays more spam per capita than any other nation. But with an estimated population of 48, perhaps it's not that surprising.

Small localities including Tokelau, The Faroe Islands, and The Falkland Islands also witnessed a disproportionate amount of junk mail activity in the final quarter of 2007, according to a chart from net security firm Sophos.

When absolute volumes of junk are considered - a more meaningful statistic to most internet users - the United States, Russia, and China top the list, accounting for one in three (33.8 per cent) junk mail messages between them. When these top three spam-relaying countries are considered in terms of population, the United States is in 64th position, Russia in 45th, and China plummets to 132nd.

The UK, ninth in terms of volume, drops to 50th worst spam relaying country on a per capita (head) count.

A separate analysis of spam trends in February 2008 by net security firm MessageLabs reveals that 4.6 per cent of all spam originates from web mail-based services.

The proportion of spam from Gmail increased two-fold from 1.3 per cent in January to 2.6 per cent in February, most of which spamvertised porno websites. Yahoo! Mail was the most abused web mail service, responsible for sending 88.7 per cent of all web mail-based spam.

The increase of web-based spam reflects rising success by ne'er-do-wells in defeating anti-spam CAPTCHAs, mechanisms designed to eliminate automated sign up tools by requiring the user to perform a task that can supposedly only be performed by a human.

After hackers developed an automated method with a 20-30 per cent success rate, they've been able to use their botnets to create unlimited numbers of accounts on compromised services for spamming and phishing. Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail CAPTCHAs were first broken in July 2007. The increase in spam from Gmail last month is indicative of similar success, MessageLabs reports.

"There are several approaches a spammer can take to defeat a CAPTCHA," said Mark Sunner, chief security analyst at MessageLabs. "Whether they do so using an algorithm, a 'mechanical turk', or combination of the two, email providers are feeling the pressure to keep pace but are limited to what a human can realistically solve creating ever more doubt surrounding the long-term effectiveness of the CAPTCHA as a security mechanism for protecting email services from abuse."

Last month also witnessed an increase in targeted Trojan attacks to approximately 30 per day, a rise of about 200 per cent since the end of 2007. These attacks focus on small numbers of targets, keeping malign activity under the radar of the wider security industry.

One particular attack last month involved up to 900 targeted Trojans, primarily directed towards senior business executives worldwide, that made use of multiple attack vectors including drive by downloads from compromised websites. These attacks are often based on prior intelligence gathered about their targets, MessageLabs notes. ®

Top 10 countries based on spam emitted per capita

  1. The Pitcairn Islands
  2. Niue
  3. Tokelau
  4. Anguilla
  5. The Faroe Islands
  6. Monaco
  7. Bermuda
  8. The Falkland Islands
  9. Andorra
  10. Aruba

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