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Palin, Obama Win Junk E-mail Race

Spammers use the presidential candidates as lures.

Barack Obama has won, but not the White House.

Spammers are using junk e-mail mentions of the Democratic candidate for U.S. president and Republican Party running mate Sarah Palin more often than their opponents, according to Secure Computing Corp., a provider of enterprise security solutions.

In September, spam containing the word "Obama" occurred more than six times as often as his opponent, Republican candidate John McCain; spam referring to Palin outpaced Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden by a smaller ratio, 5-to-4.

"Though the spam message content itself is nonsensical, the basic themes of the Obama e-mail content does tend to revolve around the shallow factors that are espoused in the mainstream media as central campaign issues: race, disputes with [Hillary and Bill] Clinton, messianic oratory and FOX news smears," according to the report by Secure Computing. "The McCain spam subjects are equally driven by shallow media propaganda, revolving around age and wealth."

Many of the hundreds of millions of spam e-mails that mention the presidential candidates use fake news headlines in the subject and embedded Web links in the message to entice users to click on them, said Sven Krasser, director of data mining research for Secure Computing. Many of these Internet links send users to Web sites that contain malware, he said. Spammers aren't just putting viruses directly into the e-mail like they did years ago.

This means it's important to have security on both the e-mail and Web side, Krasser said.

"What we need to do, in general, as the IT community is to realize that there are many threats on the Web, and we need to address them at a global scale," he said. "It's important also that we raise the awareness in government branches that they need to take a look at protecting the Web gateway to make sure that the employees don't get malware into the systems over that route." You must have all the end-users covered, he said.