September 10, 2009

Hong Kong Named Most Spamming City On Earth

Hong Kong has been named the spam capital of the world, according to a recent report.

Hong Kong is the epicenter of spam, with an estimated 4,000 zombie machines being controlled by spammers who are sending out thousands of unsolicited messages each day.

Last year, Internet security firm MessageLabs's Annual Security Report found that 81.3 percent of all emails sent to computers in Hong Kong were spam.

That figure has risen to 93.4 as of last month.

Spam levels in the US and Canada rose to 89.5 percent and 88.7 percent respectively, according to MessageLabs.

"Nowhere is quite like Hong Kong. Location, history and inherent character combine to give it a special identity that sets it apart from anywhere else in the world," Internet data analyst Dan Bleaken told AFP, adding that the problem is more than an annoyance. It actually amounts to substantial financial losses.

"According to some estimates, spam-related activities cost Hong Kong 770 million dollars (5.5 billion HK dollars) in 2001, for example," he said.

"Although the rest of China is the origin of only seven percent of global spam, it accounts for nearly 24 percent of the spam heading for Hong Kong."

According to the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Ordinance of 2007, companies must allow email recipients to "unsubscribe" to their messages. The senders must also provide their name, telephone number and postal address. Any violation of the ordinance could result in fines of up to $128,000.

AFP reported that Hong Kong's Office of the Telecommunications Authority admitted to receiving 13,055 complaints, but has issued just 89 warning letters.

These so-called botnets of zombie computers are becoming a major source of online crime.

"Botnets are fast becoming the air supply of the spammers," Paul Wood, a senior analyst at MessageLabs, told AFP.

"In 2008, botnets were responsible for as much as 90 percent of all spam." Wood estimates that there are around 4,000 zombie computers active in Hong Kong, around 40 times higher than would normally be expected for a region of around seven million people.

"This is due to the high concentration of computers in Hong Kong, which is itself a function of the region's affluence and the substantial commercial presence there," he said.


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