Report: US guilty of harbouring most malware

The US is the source of the vast majority of malware and spam, according to a new report published by the IT security and control firm Sophos.

The Security Threat Report for 2009 examines the threat landscape over the last 12 months, and predicts emerging cybercrime trends for 2009.

According to the report, the US hosted 37 per cent of the world's malware in 2008, ahead of China with 27.7 per cent. Russia was in the third place with 9.1 per cent, while the UK was down in seventh at 1.7 per cent. The US also relayed the most spam, at 17.5 per cent.

To emphasise the extent of the US based problem the report highlights how when US hosting company McColo was taken offline, the amount of spam sent reduced by up to 80 per cent albeit for a short time.

"Not only is the USA relaying the most spam because too many of its computers have been compromised and are under the control of hackers, but it's also carrying the most malicious web pages," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "We would like to see the States making less of an impact on the charts in the coming year. American computers, whether knowingly or not, are making a disturbingly large contribution to the problems of viruses and spam affecting all of us today."

According to the report most attacks occur through networks of computers that have been linked together to form an attack platform, having been commandeered by hackers completely unbeknownst by their owners.

Further revelations are that state sponsored cybercrime is also on the rise, with China, North Korea, Russia and Georgia among those accused of virtual espionage.

Also highlighted was a major rise of malicious email attachments, designed to steal identities and financial details, and also in hackers breaking into peoples accounts on social networking sites such as Facebook in order to send spam and malware.

"People need to wake up to the reality that the completely legitimate website they are visiting could be harbouring a dangerous malware infection planted by hackers," said Cluley.

"As we enter 2009 we are not expecting to see these assaults diminish. As economies begin to enter recession it will be more important than ever for individuals and businesses to ensure that they are on guard against internet attacks," he added.

Click here for the top five malware threats expected for 2009.

Benny Har-Even

Benny Har-Even is a twenty-year stalwart of technology journalism who is passionate about all areas of the industry, but telecoms and mobile and home entertainment are among his chief interests. He has written for many of the leading tech publications in the UK, such as PC Pro and Wired, and previously held the position of technology editor at ITPro before regularly contributing as a freelancer.

Known affectionately as a ‘geek’ to his friends, his passion has seen him land opportunities to speak about technology on BBC television broadcasts, as well as a number of speaking engagements at industry events.