Terry Zink's Cyber Security Blog

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The Top Spamming Countries

The Top Spamming Countries

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A little over a week ago, Sophos published a blog post about the countries that sent the most spam in the third quarter of 2012. They found that India was number one on the list with 16% of the spam, followed by Italy at number two with 9% and the US at number three with 7%.

As usual, I’m a little late in publishing my own analysis. But mine is different. Rather than looking at the countries that send the most spam, I break it down by countries that send the most spam as a proportion of the total mail they send and how much total spam they send to us. The US is the country from which we receive the most spam, but it’s traffic isn’t nearly as bad as Brazil. My numbers reflect this.

A couple of things, though:

  1. Sophos’s numbers and ordering are not going to be the same as mine because we see different email streams. Our customer base skews heavier towards the United States, Canada and the UK. Our corporate customers are also different from theirs. Thus, the trends will be similar but not identical.

  2. My numbers do not account for all of our IP blocklist rejections. We do not keep individual statistics on those. My belief is that they would be pretty much the same as what we catch in our content filter, but I have not verified this.

In my analysis, I have decided to split it into the top five “good” countries that send us spam, and the top five “bad” countries that send us spam.

The “good” countries all have a total spam percentage (after IP blocks) of less than 10% for the 3rd quarter of 2012. But instead of showing you a flat numbers chart, I’m going to show you an animation. These countries are the US (US), Britain (BR), France (FR), Singapore (SG), and Japan (JP). I’m surprised that Singapore is on that list, but it is what it is. How do these numbers change over time? Take a look on the motion chart* below:

Top Spamming ”Good” Countries Spam Percentage; 3Q, 2012

 

Note: when I post this, the chart reverts back to its default state instead of my description below. I apologize profusely for this, but I can’t figure out how to “anchor” these settings. So, for best results, please do the following:

  1. Change the left, vertical axis to Total
  2. Change the bottom, horizontal axis to Spam Percentage
  3. Change the Color in the top right to Unique Colors
  4. Change the Size in the top right(ish) to Total
  5. Select all the checkboxes
  6. Unselect Trails
  7. To slow down the animation, beside the little triangle Play button is a second smaller triangle. The second one scrolls up and down, slide it down a little to make it easier to watch.

In the chart above, the size of the dot corresponds to how much total mail it sent. The total mail is also the vertical axis. The horizontal axis is the percent of mail that was marked as spam for that particular day. The further to the right the dot is, the more spammy it was on that date. Countries want to be as far to the left as possible.

What about the “bad” countries? To get the these, I took the top countries that sent us more than 20% spam over the same period. These are Brazil (BR), China (CN), India (IN), Italy (IT), and Turkey (TR). How do their numbers change over time? Let’s take a look:

Top Spamming ”Bad” Countries Spam Percentage; 3Q, 2012

Remember, the further right on the horizontal axis, the more spammy the country was on that day. The vertical axis and size of the dot (which are the same scale), show how much total mail they sent that day.

When we compare our numbers to Sophos’s, India, Italy, Brazil, China and Turkey all make our list but in not quite the same order. This shows that the trends are similar although not necessarily identical. I prefer breaking it out into “good” and “bad” countries so as to differentiate the rates of spam, not just pure volume.

And that’s the comparison of the top spamming countries between Microsoft Forefront Online and Sophos.


* I credit my manager for giving me the idea to organize and format data in this way. I think it’s a lot better than showing stuff in a static chart. Instead, you get to view things over time and also show more than two dimensions. The above chart shows time, spam percent and total mail.

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  • Please add 4 and 7 and type the answer here:
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  • What chart control are you using?  Looks really good...

  • @Jimbo:

    I created a new spreadsheet in Google Docs. I then went to Insert -> Gadget -> Motion Chart. It then creates the animated chart and I then embedded into this blog post.

    Apparently there's a way to set this initial state, I haven't quite figured it out yet.

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