Preston Gralla

Republican Ron Paul gets the botnet vote

October 31, 2007 11:38 AM EDT
Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul appears to be getting support from unusual supporters -- an illegal, globe-spanning network of spam-spewing robots, according to the University of Alabama.

Wired News reports that the University of Alabama's Spam Data Mining for Law Enforcement Applications project has found that large amounts of spam are being sent in support of Paul, with subject lines such as "Ron Paul Wins GOP Debate! HMzjoqO." The random characters at the end of the subject line are put there in an attempt to fool spam filters.

The PCs spewing the spam are hijacked PCs from all over the world, including South Korea, Japan, the United Kingdom, Nigeria and Brazil.

There are absolutely no connections between the spam and the campaign. "This is clearly a criminal act in support of a campaign, which has been committed with or without their knowledge," Gary Warner, the University of Alabama's director of research in computer forensics, told Wired.

There's no way to know whether it's being done by a misguided supporter, or by someone trying to embarrass the campaign. Wired notes that Paul's supporters tend to be a very tech-savvy bunch, and are very vocal online. Wired notes, "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."

No matter who's doing it, though, expect this to be only the beginning of online political dirty tricks by many others. When power, money, and egos are involved, things get very nasty very quickly. One way or another, it'll all show up online.