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09 Nov 2006

Politicans add to the spam problem in run-up to US elections

US political emails fail to set a good example for other internet marketeers

IT security firm Sophos has reported that both the Republican and Democratic parties sent out unsolicited emails campaigning for support in advance of the recent US mid-term elections.

The emails were sent out in the days leading up to the November 7th election date, and urged recipients to take to the polls and cast their votes. Samples were picked up by Sophos's global network of spamtraps - providing evidence that the emails have not been targeted specifically at US voters, and could have been distributed to lists created through online email address 'harvesting'.

"A Sophos spamtrap is not a legitimate US voter, so why did it receive emails telling it to vote in the mid-term elections?" said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. "Given that the internet is already being clogged up with spam, do we really need US politicians adding to the problem by indiscriminately sending out these unwanted messages?"

Sophos spamtraps have received emails from both the Republican and Democratic political parties. Click here to see a larger version

Sophos spamtraps have received emails from both the Republican and Democratic political parties.

According to Sophos, while legally the emails are not classed as spam - as US political parties are exempt from legislation such as the CAN-SPAM act - the campaigns bear worrying echoes of traditional spamming activity. Sophos experts note that recipients have not necessarily opted-in to receiving political messages.

"It seems that some US political representatives, who helped draft the anti-spam legislation, are actually contributing to the glut of unwanted, unrequested email. Ironically, the parties don't appear to have realised that receiving an unwanted political spam may actually annoy some recipients enough to make them vote in the opposite direction," continued Cluley. "Isn't it time for politicians to abide by the same kind of internet etiquette guidelines that we would expect of any legitimate organization, rise above the tactics of spammers, and only send emails to those people who have specifically opted-in to receive such communications?"

Sophos recommends companies protect their desktops, servers and gateways with a consolidated solution to thwart the threats of viruses, spyware, phishing and spam.

About Sophos

More than 100 million users in 150 countries rely on Sophos as the best protection against complex threats and data loss. Sophos is committed to providing complete security solutions that are simple to deploy, manage, and use and that deliver the industry's lowest total cost of ownership. Sophos offers award-winning encryption, endpoint security, web, email, mobile and network security solutions backed by SophosLabs - a global network of threat intelligence centers.

Sophos is headquartered in Boston, US and Oxford, UK. More information is available at www.sophos.com.