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Belarus becomes world's top country ... for SPAM

White Russia dons black hat, becomes junkmail conduit

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Belarus has eclipsed the US to become the biggest single source of global spam, according to cloud-based email and web security firm AppRiver.

Junk volumes from the landlocked former Soviet republic, which borders Poland and Russia, hit an all-time high on 13 April and have sustained this level since then.

In January, AppRiver security researchers were seeing an average of 3.1 million spam messages per day from Belarus. After the spike happened on 13 April, AppRiver said it began recording an average of 12.3 million spam messages per day - which is now climbing.

Only one in a thousand messages from Belarus is legitimate, with 99.9 per cent of the electronic messages consisting of junk mail, said the security firm. Current volumes of junkmail from Belarus are exceeding those from the US, the historic source of most of the world's internet detritus.

"The actual message content was very slim and simple," explains AppRiver security analyst Jonathan French in a blog post. "Most of the messages just simply contained a link and a few words. Many of the links did not lead to active webpages, with most giving 500 or 404 server errors."

"The links that did work lead to pharmacy websites trying to sell drugs to visitors. There was a very small amount of the messages that also lead to websites hosting malware," he added.

French told El Reg that most users would likely recognise the messages, which come from .ru domains and make no attempt at spoofing, as spam. He's currently at a loss to explain the sustained spam spike from Belarus.

"I can only speculate at the cause, but I assume there was nothing special about the April 13th date when spam volume began to rise," French told El Reg. "It may have just been the time for the campaign organiser(s) to start after preparing the machines and systems for this particular campaign. It has been ongoing a while and showing no signs of declining."

Belarus, best known as the last holdout of a Stalinist-style regime in Europe, has rarely - if ever - been mentioned as a major source of spam. However, a quick check with Sophos revealed it had also logged Belarus as the world's worst spam-relaying country over the last 30 days.

Belarus now accounts for 16.3 per cent of the world's spam, compared to 15.1 per cent from the US and 7.45 per cent from the Ukraine, according to exclusive figures produced for The Register. China accounts for 5.78 per cent of the world's spam-relaying.

Sophos's stats, like the figures from AppRiver, look at the locations of abused computers (almost always Trojan-infected zombie drones) rather than the physical location of current spam kingpins. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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