Presidential Elections will Stuff Inboxes

More than five billion e-mails will stuff registered voters’ inboxes in the 30 days leading to the November 4 presidential elections, Internet security solutions provider SonicWALL predicted today.

About 90 percent of the e-mails will be from spammers referencing the elections, SonicWALL e-mail security expert Andy Klein told Another seven to eight percent will be from the candidates, their supporters and dissenters criticizing the candidates.

Phishing e-mails, where the senders try to get recipients to click on links to donate money or provide personal or credit card information, will only account for one to three percent, Klein said.

The majority of people who fall victim to phishing spams will be those 18 to 24 years old because “they grew up with the Internet and they trust it,” Klein said. “Your 78-year-old grandmother doesn’t trust the Internet so she’s not likely to send out information over the Internet,” he added.

Klein said SonicWALL predicted that there would be 1.25 billion political spam messages during the 2004 Presidential elections, and it was correct. This year’s estimate is based on the fact that the amount of spam has quadrupled in the past four years.

However, he thinks even five billion is a conservative estimate. “The interest in this campaign is greater than in 2004, the use of e-mail is greater, and the awareness of spammers to utilize those two factors is much greater,” he explained. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the actual figure would be double that.” Klein’s estimates are based on the 80 million to 120 million spam messages sent out worldwide every day, he said.

The number of phishing e-mails will be relatively small because spammers are getting smarter, Klein said. “We expect hackers to send a couple of hundred thousand spams out with one subject line from one campaign using 10 different sites, then change the subject line and send the e-mails from another 10 sites,” he explained.

This is the same tactic hackers are using to send out viruses, and it makes them difficult to trace, Klein said. “You haven’t seen any big virus attacks for awhile, they’ve all been little spams with variants because they’re more difficult to stop.”

If spam comes from a legitimate site such as a candidate’s site, recipients can unsubscribe or ask the sender to take them off the e-mail list. However, it’s better to ignore the spam in case the site has been spoofed and the e-mail is actually from a hacker instead, Klein said.

Recipients should ignore spam appearing to have been sent by a candidate who’s asking for a donation by credit card or through PayPal or asking for personal information even if it bears the candidate’s photograph, Klein said. “Look up the party’s Website, call the toll-free number and make your donation over the phone,” he advised. “Spammers don’t want your money, they want your credit card number or identity information so they can sell it for a few bucks.”

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