Idaho, Alabama, and South Carolina have the highest spam rates in the U.S., according to a spam statistics report released by Symantec Corp.'s MessageLabs Intelligence.
Idaho has a spam rate of 95.2%, well above the national average of 89.3%. Alabama and South Carolina are close contenders for the top spot, coming in with spam rates at 94.4% and 93.6% respectively.
MessageLabs Intelligence senior analyst Paul Wood said spammers are targeting businesses within the individual states. Spammers peddling software, watches and diet pills are continuing to benefit from their activities, getting some messages to slip past antispam technologies,
Spammers are targeting businesses in the automotive, construction and engineering fields, according to the report. The least targeted industries in the U.S. include finance, admin and the public sector.
A similar spam statistics report issued by U.K.-based security vendor Sophos plc documented a rise in spam, finding the U.S. as the top country targeted by spammers. The U.S. held this spot with a 15.2% spam rate, while India, the number two ranked country, came in with only 7.7%. Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos, said this is simply because the U.S. has more computer users. Many U.S. consumers are not keeping up with security patches, he said.
Meanwhile, spam messages have also been evolving along with the Internet. "Over recent years I found that it's more malicious," Cluley said. "It's not just about selling fake goods; it's about sending people poisoned links and dangerous attachments -- malicious spyware that turns computers into botnets."
Spam is now becoming more convincing, and thus is more difficult to spot. In emails, the subject line could reference world events or the day's news rather than adult content, Wood said. So far spam has gone from advertisements for unwanted items to advertising breaking news stories. But as far as the evolution of spam messages goes, both experts agree that social media is taking it to a new level.
On social networking sites spam can come from a friend, a source that seems trustworthy, but in reality someone has hacked into their account. "Over past years social media has seen phenomenal uptake," Wood said. The best way to protect yourself, he said, is to safeguard your email address as if it was your phone number. "If it falls into the wrong hands, it can render your email almost useless," Wood said.
So what kind of person do spammers target? "Fundamentally, it comes down to this: Is it the right person at the right time?" Cluley asked. "Spammers only need a tiny percent of people that think 'I will click on that' for it to be beneficial to them."
Wood agrees that caution should be used when browsing online.
"If you don't think twice about what you're doing," Wood said, "you're going to potentially put yourself at risk to be spammed."