Ron Paul In Presidential Spam Scam?

According to Sarah Lai Stirland of Wired.com, presidential hopeful Ron Paul may be using a network of zombie bot computers to aid his cause via spamming techniques.

“If Texas congressman Ron Paul is elected president in 2008, he may be the first leader of the free world put into power with the help of a global network of hacked PCs spewing spam, according to computer-security researchers who’ve analyzed a recent flurry of e-mail supporting the long-shot Republican candidate. “This is clearly a criminal act in support of a campaign, which has been committed with or without their knowledge,” says Gary Warner, the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s director of research in computer forensics. “The question is, will we see more and more of this, or will this bring shame to the campaigns and will they make clear that this is not a form of acceptable behavior by their supporters?” Warner pointed to provisions of the federal Can-Spam Act.

Ron Paul spokesman Jesse Benton says the campaign has no knowledge of the scam. Warner himself says that he has no reason to believe that the Paul campaign had anything to do with these messages.

Some participants in the online political world have long suspected Paul’s technically sophisticated fan base of manipulating online tools and polls to boost the appearance of a wide base of support. But the UAB analysis is the first to document any internet shenanigans.

The finding is significant, because Paul’s online support — as gauged by blog mentions, friends on social-networking sites such as MySpace and popularity in online polls — has garnered him wide mainstream print and television coverage, despite his relatively poor performance in offline polling.

The spamming allegations are based on a slew of e-mails captured by contributors to the university’s Spam Data Mining for Law Enforcement Applications project, a research venture that receives 2.5 million spam messages a day, and selects about 100,000 a week for analysis. The project receives its spam from other researchers with ties to ISPs, and in some cases from “trap” addresses that have never been used for any other purpose”.

Presidential-spam

Blog Comments

I have certainly seen evidence of Ron Paul support via comments on some of my own blogs. Whether this is computer generated, or part of a deliberate campaign I have no idea, though the relevance of the comments to the posts in question was actually good – whoever left the comments would at least appear to have read the post.

Whilst it has long been suspected that the Ron Paul campaign may be using underhand tactics, it should be noted that on the internet anyone can appear to be whomever they like. It is just as possible that a competitor could employ spamming techniques to discredit an opponent, by alienating their potential voters.

Black Hat

Utilising spam and other ‘black hat’ techniques to manipulate search results in order to promote web sites and generate awareness of certain causes has been evident since the conception of the world wide web and will likely not go away soon either. That such strategies should now be applied to politics, by whomever and for whatever purpose, should really be no surprise. In fact, the question should probably be why no-one has thought of this before!

Dirty Tricks

What do you think? Is Ron Paul a spamming scammer, or is a competitor playing a dirty tricks campaign?

Do you even care?

About Lee Munson

Lee's non-technical background allows him to write about internet security in a clear way that is understandable to both IT professionals and people just like you who need simple answers to your security questions.

Comments

  1. 4 years later and Ron Paul’s popularity grows. Nope, he’s not spam or bots. It’s his fans.
    I first heard of Ron Paul because of all the negativity the media gives him. His logic makes sense.

  2. In my opinion such polls are just a collection of statistics and, as any politician will tell you, there are lies, damn lies and statistics!
    Incidentally, does it really matter who wins anyway? After all, democracy isn’t about choices.

  3. The Ron Paul internet rage is can and certainly should be brought under scrutiny, but more importantly it brings polling in general into serious question. If Paul’s online support is genuine, which by all practical purposes it seems to be, then how are the “substantiated” polls being conducted? What are the pools these polls are drawing from? If the online polls are more accurate than not … it means that the so-called substantiated polls are being deliberately engineered to yield pre-determined outcomes. With Paul having generated the enormous amounts of small donations via online, it looks to me that the online grassroots support is more substantial than not. It leads me to seriously question Gallup, and straw poll outcomes.

  4. True … but you never know.
    And one can hope, right ?

  5. George W Bush says:

    I was expecting this to be a very one sided attack on Ron Paul but am pleasantly surprised to see a balanced viewpoint. Personally I believe it is a smear against him.

  6. Dar Scott says:

    We should be open to the idea that the Ron Paul campaign could be the victim, and perhaps an intended victim.

    Some blogs and web pages include the phrase “Ron Paul” to increase hits. We can see these in searches. The use of a “Ron Paul email” to do email address confirmation seems consistent with this.

    There have also been more direct Internet attacks against the campaign, though the campaign has been quiet about those, perhaps to minimize copy-cat attacks. In those cases, it was not just somebody exploiting the interest, but a direct effort to hurt the campaign.

    • Hopefully I left it open – I too believe it could be either a pro- or anti- Ron Paul tactic employed by either supporters or detractors.

  7. Wired printed a semi-retraction admitting that the campaign had no knowledge or participation in the spam.

Trackbacks

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