IT security and control firm, Sophos, has published its latest report into the top twelve spam relaying countries, covering the first quarter of 2010.

The US continues its unpopular reign as the king of spam, relaying more than 13% of global spam and accounting for hundreds of millions of junk messages every day.
However, China – often blamed for cyber crime by other countries – has completely disappeared from the "dirty dozen", coming in at 15th place and responsible for relaying just 1.9% of the world's spam.
The top 12 spam relaying countries for January to March 2010 are as follows:
1 – United States – 13.1%
2 – India – 7.3%
3 – Brazil – 6.8%
4 – S Korea – 4.8%
5 – Vietnam – 3.4%
6 – Germany – 3.2%
9 – United Kingdom – 3.1%
9 – Russia – 3.1%
9 – Italy – 3.1%
10 – France – 3.0%
11 – Romania – 2.5%
12 – Poland – 2.4%
57 – South Africa – 0.24%
Others – 47.3%
"China has earned itself a bad reputation in many country's eyes for being the launch-pad of targeted attacks against foreign companies and government networks, but at least in the last 12 months the country can demonstrate that the proportion of spam relayed by its computers has steadily declined," says Brett Myroff, CEO of regional Sophos distributor, Sophos South Africa. "A new dirty 'gang of four' – South Korea, Brazil, India and the US – account for over 30% of all the spam relayed by hacked computers around the globe."
Spam accounts for a staggering 97% of all email received by business email servers, putting a strain on resources and wasting a huge amount of time to lost productivity.  Used largely as a method for selling counterfeit or illicit goods such as fake pharmaceuticals, luxury watches and false diplomas, virtually all spam comes from malware infected computers (called bots, or zombies) that are controlled by 'botherder' cyber criminals.
Computer users can unwittingly allow their PCs to become part of a botnet in a number of ways, including clicking on malicious links that are frequently contained within the spam messages that the botnets distribute. “The only way for users and administrators to reduce the risk of being compromised is to run anti-spam and anti-malware protection and ensure all software and hardware is up to date with security patches,” says Myroff.
"Countries such as the US would do well to remember that cleaning-up infected PCs in their own back yard will be an important step in fighting cyber crime. We should not forget that if no-one bought products sold via spam there would be a lot less incentive to send junk email. Computer users should not just protect their computers from threats like malware and spam, they should also pledge to never buy anything advertised via spam."
By continent, Asia continues to dominate in terms of spam, with more than a third of the world's unsolicited junk email relayed by the region.  Although the US remains the top offender by country, North America as a whole has reduced its spam throughput since the last quarter, dropping from second to third place.
Sophos recommends that companies automatically update their corporate virus protection, and run a consolidated solution at their email and web gateways to defend against spam and viruses.