Obama beats McCain in 'spam-off' by landslide

And phishers work to spin economic crisis their way

Spammers prefer Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., over his rival, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., by landslide-like numbers, a security researcher said today.

According to Secure Computing Corp., spammers were nearly seven times more likely to slap Obama's name in the subject line than McCain's during September. The bulk of Obama's lead in the spam wars came from a massive blitz early in the month.

"Spammers ran a big campaign around the time of the Republican convention," said Sven Krasser, director of data mining research at Secure Computing. "Since then, it's been a little more equal, although there's still a bias for Obama."

Among the Obama-related spam subjects that Secure tracked last month were:

  • Barack Obama Team In Crisis As George W Bush Lends Him 'Full Support'
  • Obama Supporters Attack Hillary In Second Life
  • Jesus Endorses Obama; Four Horsemen Opt for McCain
  • Obama Ahead Amongst Voters With Similarly Weird Names

Meanwhile, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the GOP's candidate for vice president, has been beating Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., in the spam count by a ratio of 5-to-4.

The numbers didn't surprise Krasser. "Palin and Obama are the most targeted by spammers because they got more media attention during the month," he said. "Spam trends generally follow media trends; they're just trying to judge what the public is interested in."

That was especially true for the Palin-Biden spam-off, as the news stories about the Alaska governor outnumbered those mentioning her rival by a ratio of 7-to-1 during the month, Secure Computing noted in its report.

Also surging last month, said Krasser, were phishing attacks that took advantage of the confusion and concern over the developing economic crisis. Chase and Wachovia, two banks much in the news, were the No. 1 and No. 2 phishing targets last month, reported Secure Computing.

"This is a great time for phishers," said Krasser, "because people are very concerned about their financial security. That makes it more likely that they'll be scared enough to click on a link."

Phishers leverage anything they can to dupe people into clicking on the links to their bogus sites, Krasser noted, making the crisis a perfect opportunity for identity thieves. "If there's something that gives them a little edge, they'll leverage it," he said. After reading stories of bank mergers, for example, it's understandable if people ask themselves which bank now controls their money.

"It's always dangerous when users don't know what their bank's Web site looks like," Krasser said, referring to phishers taking advantage of that lack of knowledge to push fake versions of unfamiliar bank sites onto consumers.

Secure Computing expects to see even larger numbers of bank-related phishing attacks this month as the crisis continues to unfold. "This is the time for the phishers to make their numbers," said Krasser. "As long as people are scare and shaken, it's an opportunity for them."

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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