Obama Trounces McCain...in Spam Campaign

By Matthew Hines  |  Posted 2008-10-03 Print this article Print

With a long road to go in the official race for the White House, Democratic candidate Barack Obama is already putting a sound beating to his Republican counterpart John McCain, in the arena of spam generation, that is.

And no, we're not talking about all those plaintive e-mails showing up in your personal inbox asking for real campaign donations; we're talking about unwanted e-mails that you probably didn't sign up to receive.

According to a new report from gateway security specialists Secure Computing, which was recently acquired by McAfee for $465 million, Obama led McCain 84.4 percent to 12.6 percent (a 6:1 ratio) in terms of being the thematic bait used to lure users to open unwanted messages during the month of September.

Among the most popular message subject lines involved in the campaigns were a number that tried to blend election issues with comedy, making it seem as if spammers must be dedicated SNL viewers or something.

Five of the most popular (and offbeat) headlines used to that end were:

-Barack Obama Team In Crisis As George W Bush Lends Him 'Full Support' -Satire Site Officially Endorses Obama, For What Painfully Little It's Worth -Obama Supporters Attack Hillary In Second Life

-Jesus Endorses Obama; Four Horsemen Opt for McCain

-Obama Ahead Amongst Voters With Similarly Weird Names

OK, the one with Jesus and the Four Horsemen is sort of funny.

And yes, spammers are also tapping into the VP race for spam fodder as well, though in that race the GOP candidate, Sarah Palin, is well ahead of her Democratic rival Joseph Biden... but we won't use this space to speculate why.

According to the report, Palin enjoyed a 1.9 percent to 1.1 percent lead (or a 5:4 ratio lead) in spam messages over Biden during the month of September.

One can only expect that as the presidential race continues to garner more attention and headlines in the coming months that spam levels using the election as clickbait will only continue to proliferate. (Am I the only one who misses Jesse Jackson's candidacy?)

Other spam issues for September included widespread use of the financial crisis on Wall Street as a tool to push end users into opening unsolicited e-mail. Many of these messages were also phishing schemes, Secure Computing researchers said.

Among the brands most popularly spoofed in those campaigns were those of Chase, Wachovia, Colonial and Bank of America. I'm guessing people won't fall for e-mail related to Lehman Bros., Merrill Lynch or WAMU like they might have only a few weeks ago. Ouch.

Another trend was the increased use of gibberish spam, the company said, though, one really has to wonder what the point of constructing such a campaign is when the e-mails raise such immediate red flags in terms of their (lack of) social engineering.

So, save some room in those inboxes, because as the presidential election itself draws closer, we're sure to see even more heaping helpings of timely political spam.

Matt Hines has been following the IT industry for over a decade as a reporter and blogger, and has been specifically focused on the security space since 2003, including a previous stint writing for eWeek and contributing to the Security Watch blog. Hines is currently employed as marketing communications manager at Core Security Technologies, a Boston-based maker of security testing software. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of Core Security, and neither the company, nor its products and services will be actively discussed in the blog. Please send news, research or tips to SecurityWatchBlog@gmail.com.

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