China swamped by mobile phone spam

Mobile phone receiving an SMS spam message

If you have a mobile phone you may have from time-to-time been irritated by an unsolicited SMS text message offering you a free ringtone, or some other nonsense. I receive probably a couple of these every year. Not a big problem – I just press ‘delete’.

But in China, it seems, it’s a different story.

According to statistics from the Internet Society of China (ISC), an astonishing 353.8 billion spam text messages are sent each year. This is apparently a rise of 92.7% year on year.

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So, what does that mean for the typical Chinese cellphone user? Well, there are approximately 574 million mobile phone owners in China – so that works out as (clunk.. whirr..) over 600 spam messages every year. Ouch!

That’s why the ISC has formed an allliance of more than 30 companies, agreeing to follow best practice and to stomp out spam text messages. And not before time. In June, the ISC received a mind-boggling 438,668 complaints about spams sent to mobile phones. Under the new guidelines, message senders are obliged to get the recipient’s consent before sending commercial messages in future.

Will this impact on the torrent of SMS spam in the country? Only time will tell.

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

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