Well, who would’ve thought it? When one thinks about the global sources of email spam, it’s only natural to put the U.S., China, Russia, much of Sub-Saharan Africa, India, and others at the top of the list. When thinking of the top spam producing countries, it’s not natural, or at least it doesn’t seem to be, to hear the faint echo of ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi!’ But that’s what at least one security firm is suggesting, according to the Brisbane Times. So, with apologies in advance to any and all Australians for the following stereotypes, whether real or perceived, fix yourself a vegemite sandwich, pop open a Foster’s and give it a burl.
According to the article, a recent report suggests that Australia is the world’s sixth largest producer of spam, although the article does preface the fact that there’s already some controversy over the figures. One security firm reports that “Australian sources generate more dangerous and unwanted email than Russia, Canada and Holland,” says the article, with the country accounting for 3.1 percent of the world’s spam in the second quarter of this year. The other players in the report, as the article points out, aren’t surprising, with the United States topping the list at 42.2 percent, followed by the U.K., France, Germany and Brazil.
Spamhaus has a slightly different take on things, although the U.S. still tops its list. The inclusion of Australia in the list seems, at best, out of place and, at worst, highly unlikely. Other firms point out that while putting Australia in the mix isn’t unusual, its placement at number six is. The Brisbane Times notes that it’s not unusual to see spammers setting up shop down under, and that while Australia isn’t “unique as a virtual launch pad for criminal endeavour…spam and related types of cyber-crime were providing high levels of return on investment for savvy criminals.”
It should be noted that Australia, like so many countries these days, does have anti-spam legislation in place, but, like so many countries these days, there’s no telling how effective it really is. If you want an interesting read, though, check out this abstract from the Australian Institute of Criminology, which briefly mentions the first (only?) instance where the 2003 spam law was implemented: “In one of the first cases to be brought under the Spam Act 2003, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) obtained declaratory orders against a business that sent over 200 million unsolicited commercial electronic messages to email addresses that had allegedly been harvested using automated software…Civil penalties are yet to be imposed.“
Meanwhile, another article from the continent that doubles as a country dishes on the tactics used by spammers to scam others out of their hard-earned dollars (Australian or otherwise). According to The Sydney Morning Herald, “you would think most of us would be less gullible by now, but according to a 2010-2011 survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, of 6.4 million people who received an online scam in the 12 months before the survey, 514,500 of us fell for it, up from 329,000 in 2007.”
The article doesn’t venture a guess why the increase from 2007, but it could be that more people are coming online, or maybe the scammers are becoming more sophisticated. Perhaps people are just more gullible. The Australian Bureau of Statistics points out that the nomenclature used by their department to identify scams changed in 2007 to include phishing, in addition to more traditional schemes like pyramid schemes and chain letter scams. “’Phishing’…was included 2007, but has been incorporated into…new categories.” And while 514,500 out of 6.4 million may not sound like a lot, a ten percent return rate translates into a brand new Ferrari for spammers, and maybe even a new swimming pool, too. If you doubt that, check out this link, in which the bureau reports that personal fraud (all types, not just online) cost Australians $1.4 billion between 2010 and 2011.
Now, it’s important to note that there’s likely nothing in these numbers that can’t be seen in other countries, to wit, Australians are no more or less gullible or susceptible to scams than anyone else. But the Sydney Morning Herald offers some interesting insights on many types of online scams, including Twitter and Facebook scams, and offers sage words of wisdom that work in any country. “Stopping spam and abuse is everyone’s responsibility, not just the duty of the social networks and security companies.”