Russia might be a country trying to regain superpower status, but it has already reached it in one less welcome area – the amount of spam it sends to the world.

According to Sophos’s Q4 2007 spam report, the country now deserves the moniker of ‘spam superpower’ having seen its share of total volumes rise dramatically over the last year, to put it in firmly in second place behind arch-rival, the US.

The first three quarters of 2007 saw the country’s share shoot up from 3 percent of spam volumes in Q1, to 3.1 percent in Q2, 4.4 percent in Q3, before hitting 8.3 percent in the new figures. As recently as 2006, the country’s share for the whole year was only 1.8 percent, which saw it at 11th place in the Sophos spam-sending league table.

Russia is already prominent for other types of Internet criminality, such as malware and exploits, boosted by the near-mythical super-network, the Russian Business Network, which supposedly went out of business in November.

Sophos was keen to stress that the figures partly reflect the number of compromised botnet PCs in Russia that have been hijacked as relays, and do not simply reflect the amount of spam that actually originates in the country. Nevertheless, the rise of Russia into second place, with no sign of volumes slowing, is bound to add to the country’s bad, if sometimes unfair, image for being a malware-sending hotspot.

“We think that's a pretty interesting increase and change in the chart over the years,” commented Graham Cluley of Sophos. “Of course, Russia has its fair share of spammers - and we see a good amount of Russian language spam advertising training courses and goods which are clearly of Russian origin.”

It’s not just the Russians who deserve bad press from the latest figures. The US sent a towering 21.3 percent of global spam over the quarter, with China in third place behind Russia with 4.2 percent, and a clutch of countries including many European ones, not far behind. Russians will also no doubt point out that Europe’s overall spam-relaying figures dwarf that of their country. Europe’s combined total is now a concerning 27.1 percent.

The good news for the US is that its spam volumes are in decline, while other are climbing. Judging by the latest increases, Russia could in theory overtake the US in the next two years, though spam statistics are notoriously hard to predict. It is just as likely that other part of the world will come to the fore.