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China SMS spam keeps on coming

You're never alone if you're a Chinese mobile customer.

When I lived in Beijing four years back I got into the habit of turning my phone to silent at night so as not to be woken by plugs for real estate deals, fake receipts and Mongolian masseuses.

The spam just keeps on coming. Security firm Qihoo 360 says it blocked more than 10 billion spam texts sent to its 70 million end-users  last year. That extrapolates to around 140 billion spam SMS for the country's almost-1 billion mobile customers.

On average, that means one spam every two to three days per use,  but because it is targeted at tier 1 cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, the burden falls more heavily on them.

It's not as it China hasn't put a lot of work into cutting spam. There's the China Anti-Spam website, the government's SMS spam reporting platform, plus the agreement to limit unsolicited texts between the three operators two years ago.

In its last report on the subject, China Anti-Spam found that mobile spam had increased 8% in Q2 last year compared with 2010, according to the China News website.

Qihoo 360 says it remains a problem because it's so easy to set up a spamming operation. It's quite profitable, too - spammers earn about 1000 yuan ($159)  for every 100,000 messages.

But it is a persistent problem because it only afflicts ordinary users. Senior officials have created a "red list" for their cellphone numbers, which ensures they are never bothered by irksome strangers. 



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