Whatever Happened to China?
July 14, 2011
By Jack Walsh

Two years ago, ICSA Labs began publishing the Top 10 nations where spam originates. The weekly published chart compares last week’s leading spam-sending nations to those from the previous week. An accompanying graph compares trends for some of the top spam-sending nations over the most recent 6 months. All of the data is based on the millions of spam messages harvested by ICSA Labs each month and used for our live anti-spam product testing.

When we began publishing this data in July 2009, China was consistently among the top 10 spam senders, usually around number seven or so. At the time India was often right there with China -- often just before or just trailing them on the list. This was the case for almost 6 months until India began to emerge as a leading spam sending nation. But as Indian spam began to rise, spam from China fell. Suddenly China was out of the top 10 – never to return (or at least not yet anyhow). At the time as I did my analysis, the story wasn’t what happened to China? Instead the story was, “Wow! Look at India and all the spam they’ve begun sending?!” Even so I did wonder whatever happened to spam from China. I just didn’t look into it.

So, the other day I was catching up on some blogs that I read. I came across one by Terry Zink. He was discussing whether or not ICANN’s allowing organizations to open up personalized generic top-level domains or gTLDs (e.g., www.microsoft.microsoft or www.icsalabs) will increase the levels of spam or numbers of spammers. It’s an interesting blog entry.

In his comments, Mr. Zink mentions that “abuse [by spammers] of .cn plummeted.” This happened because the Chinese government began requiring individuals to submit a written application to register a domain. Wow! So, that’s what happened. I wondered about the timeframe and wondered if it corresponded to the disappearance of China from our top 10. I did some digging and learned that it was mid December 2009 when China began requiring folks to prepare written applications to register for .cn domains. And as the graph below shows, it corresponds to the time when China disappeared from ICSA Labs’ Top 10 spam sending nations list.

Another mystery solved!

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