Could N.Z. become a spam haven?

New Zealand has rocketed to become the third-largest producer of spam in the region, according to anti-spam company Brightmail Inc.

Spam claiming to originate from New Zealand accounts for 14 per cent of the region’s spam production, up from only two per cent in January. The biggest offenders are China and Korea with 34 per cent and 30 per cent respectively. Japan is fourth with only eight per cent.

Brightmail, which provides anti-spam filters to both Telecom New Zealand Ltd. and TelstraClear in New Zealand, tracks e-mail traffic through around 15 per cent of the world’s e-mail addresses, making it the largest anti-spam filtering service in the world.

Local anti-spam fighters Auckland-based Richard Jowsey at Death2Spam and Christchurch-based Nick Bolton from Firetrust, which produces MailWasher, both agree that New Zealand’s lack of legislation could be behind the surge.

Bolton says the introduction of legislation in other countries is forcing spammers to look elsewhere for their base of operations.

“Legislation is forcing them to move on and perhaps they see New Zealand’s lack of legislation as a sign that we’re happy to have them.”

Bolton says hijacked PCs are also a concern.

“I understand that something like 30-40 per cent of all spam is sent through a hijacked PC these days. Perhaps that’s a factor in the increase (in New Zealand).”

The link has been made between spammers and the increase in the number of viruses that either open ports on infected machines or that install trojan backdoors without the users’ authorization.

Death2Spam’s Jowsey says ultimately it doesn’t matter where the spam comes from.

“We were looking at including it as one of the parameters in our filter but in the end we realized that it’s just not statistically important. There are other factors that are far more important when it comes to identifying spam.”

Jowsey says the number of poorly secured PCs and open relays around the world means the spammers don’t have to be based in any one country to create havoc there.

“They’re just looking for the next unsecured box and they’re send out 15 million e-mails and move on before anyone’s onto them. It doesn’t matter where they’re based.”

Labour’s associate communications minister David Cunliffe plans to introduce anti-spam legislation before the end of the year. While Cunliffe recognizes that legislation alone is not the answer, his advisory Julian Kersey says it’s an important move if only to allow New Zealand to participate in bilateral and multilateral anti-spam agreements.

The spam list for Asia Pacific region:

— China 34 per cent

— Korea 30 per cent

— New Zealand 14 per cent

— Japan eight per cent

— Hong Kong four per cent

— Taiwan four per cent

— Australia two per cent

— India one per cent

— Singapore one per cent

— Philippines one per cent

— Malaysia one per cent

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