updated 5/30/2013 12:50:34 PM ET 2013-05-30T16:50:34

The Eastern European nation of Belarus has surpassed the United States as the world's biggest email polluter, sending out an average of more than 12 million spam messages every day.

In January, researchers from the Gulf Breeze, Fla., Internet-security firm AppRiver said Belarus was responsible for a little more than 3 million spam messages per day.

But ever since a dramatic spike in junk email activity from Belarus on April 13 that hit 14 million daily bogus messages, AppRiver's Jonathan French said in a blog posting, those staggering spam levels have not only been sustained, but are increasing.

Since mid-April, AppRiver estimates, there have been 448 million spam messages sent from the U.S., but 559 million sent from Belarus.

It may be cold comfort to email users, but AppRiver researchers noted that most of the garbage messages they found contained dead links that would lead only to error messages rather than to malicious Web pages meant to infect machines with malware.

[ 13 Security and Privacy Tips for the Truly Paranoid ]

As to what caused the spam uptick, researchers can only speculate.

"It may have just been the time for the campaign organizer(s) to start after preparing the machines and systems for this particular campaign," French told the British tech news site the Register. "It has been ongoing a while and showing no signs of declining."

French said most of the spam comes from domains with the Russian ".ru" suffix rather than the Belarusian ".by" suffix. The British security firm Sophos told the Register that it was also seeing a sustained spike in Belarusian spam.

French said that the amount of spam originating from Belarus is so large, it accounts for 99.9 percent of all email sent from the country, leaving room for only one legitimate message out of every 1,000.

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