US Wins ‘Spampionship,’ Lobbies to Make it an Olympic Sport

2342009.06.17mainWe live in a very competitive world, and if the recent World Cup, Commonwealth Games, Paralympic Games and Winter Olympics are any indication, humans love to practice the time-honored tradition of proving that they’re better than other humans. It’s an honorable practice that dates back to the ancient Aztecs, Mayans, Greeks, and Romans. The human spirit seems to elevate itself when faced with competition, and while that competition is typically reserved for acts of physical exertion, feats of mental prowess, or simply seeing how many hot dogs one can shove down his gullet, not even spam is safe from the human fascination with competition.

Doubt us? Just check out Sophos’ The Dirty Dozen Spampionship: Who’s who in the global spam-sending league? The security firm has been publishing its list of offending countries for years now, but the moniker ‘spampionship’ is new. And while we’ve heard many mashups over the years using the word ‘spam,’ Sophos makes an interesting statement with a cute synthesis of ideas that says more about how we’ve come to regard spam than it says about spam itself.

Previously called ‘The Dirty Dozen,’ Sophos is still using that phrase to describe the blight known as spam. But this quarter, they’ve decided to present the numbers in a ‘league chart’ type of layout that will make you feel right at home if you spent most of July salivating over the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The Sophos report looks at the sending countries for spam – the countries from where most spam emails originated – and that’s an important distinction, because the numbers don’t represent where the cybercrooks are located. The spam email actually originates from data centers or zombies, and the bot herder could be somewhere else altogether.

“Remember that if your country is on the list, we’re not implying that you and your fellow countrymen are spam kings,” the Sophos report cautions. “That’s because cybercrooks don’t send their own spam: that would be expensive, and easy to track, and would point the finger of law enforcement right back at them.”

“You end up paying for the bandwidth, carrying the risk, and contributing to your country’s standing in the Spampionship,” Sophos says. They break the numbers into two categories: one by volume, and the other by per-capita population. The runaway winner in the spam by volume category continues to be the U.S., which has led in the sheer volume of spam sent globally for a long time, now. In fact, it’s not even close, with the U.S. at 16.4 percent to the number two country, Spain, at 5.0 percent.

And while the U.S. standing is expected, the remaining ‘winners’ reveal an interesting look at what’s happened to spam, for if you look at the right-hand columns representing how each country fared in the past four quarters, only the U.S. has a solid hold on its seed spot, while the other countries appear to be usurpers who can’t find a solid foothold. That’s due in part to the fact that the numbers for countries 2 through 12 are so close as to suggest that their overall standings are statistically insignificant, but it does also reveal a volatility in global spam traffic. Some of the countries – Japan and France – for example, haven’t shown up on the list until this quarter. While others – Spain, Germany, Argentina, South Korea, and Ukraine – have dropped off the list for one or more quarters in the past year.

In the spam by population category – which is calculated on spam per person relative to the U.S. spam message rate based on population – Belarus is the undisputed champ, with 4.5 ‘spam per person’, and Belarus is as entrenched in that number one spot as the U.S. is in the volume category. They’ve been number one in every quarter for at least the past year, well ahead of number two Uruguay, which chimes in at 3.5.

Sophos points out that “The biggest surprise in the per capita table was Israel. The Middle Eastern technology powerhouse continued its climb in spaminess, from 12th in Q3 2013, to 7th in Q4 2013, to a disappointing third place this time. With a comparatively small population, Israel’s by volume contribution isn’t enormous (29th place with 0.9% of the world’s spam), but that per capita result – more than three times the rate of our benchmark, the USA – just isn’t good enough.”

It certainly tells us where the spam is coming from, and suggests where the problems lie. Whether the U.S. has a big problem or not is open to discussion, but however you slice it, this competition isn’t one you want to win.

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