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US elections cause spike in world spam levels

13 Nov 2012
US President Barack Obama

The US is now responsible for over a quarter of the world's spam, following a spike in its output levels during the country's recent presidential election, according to Kaspersky Labs.

Kaspersky reported the boom in US spam levels in its Q3 2012 spam report. The report listed the US presidential election as a key contributing factor to the increase.

"The most popular personality over the past three months has been Barack Obama, president of the United States," read Kaspersky's report.

"His name was mentioned in emails on a wide variety of subjects: from your typical ads for "watches just like the president's" right up to denouncing the president's administration urging US citizens to challenge the current president's politics. Fraudulent and malicious emails using the US president's name were also detected."

The fraudulent messages reportedly followed the same pattern as most phishing scams, containing bogus requests for "donations" for Obama's campaign or links to malicious websites designed to infect victims machines with malware.

The campaign was listed as a key reason for a 15 percent increase in the amount of spam stemming from the US in the third quarter of 2012, making the country account for 26.7 percent of all the world's spam.

Senior security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, David Emm told V3 the spike in Obama-related spam followed a well trodden path for spammers.

"It is normal to see increased spam activities around the time of prominent events, such as US presidential elections, since they attract a lot of interest and, as a result, a bigger pool of victims," Emm told V3.

Though the majority of spam stemmed from the US, Kaspersky reported that most of it was going outward, with Germany replacing the US as the most spam afflicted country.

Prior to the report, the US had been the top target for spammers in the first eight months of 2012. In the UK, fell spam levels fell by 1.7 percent placing the country in fifth place.

Globally, Kaspersky detected a decline in spam levels during the quarter, reporting a 2.8 percent dip in the number of spam messages being sent.

Looking to the future Emm indicated that the paper's findings are positive, showcasing an overall decline in spam levels for the year, but warned internet users to remain vigilant.

"While there was the usual increase in spam in September, relative to August, the overall trend is downward, as advertisers migrate to other methods (including the use of banner ads and social networks)," he said.

"People need to be on their guard against all unsolicited approaches, whether via email or in social networks."

Kaspersky's findings run contrary to competitor Sophos', which listed India as the largest source of spam in its Dirty Dozen report in October.

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Alastair Stevenson

Alastair has worked as a reporter covering security and mobile issues at V3 since March 2012. Before entering the field of journalism Alastair had worked in numerous industries as both a freelance copy writer and artist.

View Alastair's Google+ profile

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