Developing nations are struck hardest by spam, which sucks up capacity and resources of Internet service providers and discourages consumers from using the web, an international body said.
While ISPs and consumers in more advanced economies are also affected by spam, those countries' network providers spend proportionately less in fighting junk e-mail from marketers and scammers, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development said in a recent report.
In terms of a percentage of a developing country's ISP's budget, much more is spent on hardware, bandwidth and software licenses, so additional spam-fighting resources hits those ISPs hardest, the Paris-based group said.
From the consumer perspective, money is wasted in downloading spam, since many ISPs in developing nations charge by the minute for dial-up access. Internet users in many of these countries still rely on narrowband access at home, or shared access at cyber cafes, where connections are slow and users pay by the byte of data downloaded.
To attack the problem, the OECD recommends that nations with developed economies help poorer nations develop and build a legislative and regulatory framework to fight spam. In addition, there needs to be cooperation among law-enforcement agencies to investigate international spam gangs and enforce laws.
In highlighting the need for an international effort, the OECD said a spammer operating in the U.S., for example, could have their web server hosted in China, send out spam through a mail server in India and have its payment gateway in the Bahamas for people who buy spam-advertised products.
ISPs in developing nations need to be convinced to crack down on spam originating from their network and to stop providing hosted services to spammers. For consumers, an intense educational effort is needed to help prevent them from being cheated by fraudulent schemes advertised in spam and from becoming spammers themselves.
"Once ISPs and users in a developing country are educated and aware of anti-spam and Internet security issues, enforcement of anti-spam laws in that country becomes much easier than in a country where awareness of these issues is hazy," the OECD said in its report.