India, Russia new hubs of spam and malware – Kasperksy

As Western governments are cracking down on those who use unprotected computers to steal data and send spam emails, many of these ‘botnet’ networks have been successfully transplanted to countries such as India, according to Kaspersky Labs.

While the US and Western Europe have fallen drastically as the areas from which spam and harmful viruses were being distributed, Indian computers have emerged as the most preferred home for the creators of viruses, spam and other malware.

“We would like to mention the results of the successful anti-botnet campaign in the West. The volume of spam distributed from the territory of the USA has not returned to former levels in spite of concerns by experts that it would be a temporary dip. The amount of spam originating from the UK, France and Germany has also started to drop,” Kaspersky said in its latest global spam report.

India topped the list for ‘malware’ source and destination, which has the potential to convert an unprotected computer into a spamming and malware distribution machine. India accounted for nearly 15% of the total malware email sightings in December, followed by Russia with 14% and Vietnam with 5%. USA, which has nearly ten times the computers that India has, accounted only for 3.8%, while China, which too has a similar number of PCs, accounted for just 3%.

“European countries and the USA, which had been among the leaders of this rating for the last few months, fell to the lower end of December’s Top 10. The UK, which until October had been among the top three, fell to tenth place.. It is possible that such a shift is part of the initiative to transfer botnets from the West – where anti-botnet activity is threatening business – to the East where the legal pressure is not as severe.

“The processes taking place in Eastern Europe and Asia are worthy of special mention. The countries of these regions are increasingly being targeted by malicious spam. It appears the cybercriminals are trying to transfer their zombie networks to those regions where law enforcement is either less successful or non-existent,” Kaspersky warned.

More worryingly, numbers seemed to indicate that the malware makers are largely successful in their efforts to find a new home for their pernicious products on Indian computers. Indian computers are more vulnerable than those in the West partly as many of them run on pirated Microsoft operating systems and are therefore not eligible for getting periodic security updates and patches from the company.

As a result of a possible transfer of ‘botnet’ networks to India, India emerged as the top generator of harmful emails — accounting for 10% of the total spam created in December the world over. In comparison, India has just 2% of the total PCs in the World.

The report also points out that spam networks, which make profits either by selling products such as fake medicines and watches or by stealing data such as bank passwords, are yet to figure out a new ‘business model’ after the government crackdown in the West.

“The interest in counterfeit medications on the part of Western law enforcement agencies as well as the Igor Gusev’s case initiated in Russia clearly affected the various spam categories: spammers are still searching for a partner program that is as profitable as pharmaceutical spam used to be… No single partner program will be capable of meeting the financial demands of the spammers following the demise of pharmaceutical spam. They will now have to search for a more effective area of activity and modify their tactics,” the Russia-based firm added.