Softlayer Rated Biggest Spam Hosting ISP by Spamhaus

According to a new report by the not-for-profit anti-spam organization, Spamhaus, the biggest spam hosting ISP is Softlayer, the IBM-owned cloud computing provider. A reported 42% of the ISP’s outbound emails have been discovered to be spam.

The report, issued on Wednesday, shows the ISP to be the current biggest offender, found to be supporting spammers and hosting numerous malware operations. The extent of the company’s emails found to be spam is astonishing, making it the undisputed champion of spam. Spamhaus has recorded over 685 separate spam issues on Softlayer, almost three times as many as the ISP in second place, Unicom-sc, which has had 232 reported spam issues.

Typically, the biggest web hosting companies and internet service providers do not feature so highly in the spam list, as they tend to employ numerous measures to prevent their servers being used by spammers and internet criminals. While Softlayer has not featured so highly in the past, recently it has been rising up the rankings, even though it does make efforts to fight spammers and implements controls to prevent them from using its servers.

In recent years the company has increased efforts to keep spammers at bay, and has taken firm, decisive action when reports of spamming have been received. But this has not proved to be sufficient.

It would appear that the ISP is now being targeted by Brazilian cybercriminals who are using its services to send out high volumes of spam emails and host numerous malware-infected websites. Softlayer is understood to have relaxed its criteria and vetting processes recently in an effort to attract more business; which does appear to have been successful, albeit for the wrong kind of business.

Spamhaus also pointed out that it has received requests to have Softlayer removed from its listing, but will only do so when it is clear that all of the issues have in fact been resolved. Spamhaus pointed out that cyber-criminals from Brazil were so active that “many listed ranges were being reassigned to the same spam gang immediately after re-entering the pool of available addresses.” The report went on to say, “these specific issues would not be removed until Softlayer was able to get control of the overall problem with these spammers.”

Softlayer has responded to the new number 1 ranking, saying affirmative action is being taken to tackle the issue. Communications Director, Andre Fuochi, recently told Krebsonsecurity, “We are aggressively working with authorities; groups like The Spamhaus Project, and IBM Security analysts to shut down this recent, isolated spike.”

Unfortunately, while action is being taken, it is not fast enough to stop the spammers. As soon as accounts and websites are shut down, more are created. Users are able to provision and de-provision sites and applications cheaply and quickly, which is why the ISP is struggling to stop spam emails from being sent and malware sites from being created.

Cloudmark recently confirmed Spamhaus’s rating, saying the Softlayer network was the largest single source of spam in the world during the third quarter of this year. The spammers and scammers will always find a home somewhere, but to find it at a company owned by IBM must come as a major embarrassment. IBM is, after all, a major player in the software security market.