|Computer users in Florida received unsolicited emails from the Attorney General asking for political campaign donations.|
According to media reports the Attorney General of Florida, who has spearheaded a campaign against spammers based in his state, has himself been accused of sending spam.
Charlie Crist, who has warned state residents of email scams, identity fraud, and applauded the shutting down of two Tampa-based spammers earlier this month, is a candidate for the Republican nomination for Governor of Florida. Some residents are now saying they have received unsolicited emails from Crist, promoting his gubernatorial campaign, and urging them to donate funds.
Joe Spooner, a 41-year-old resident, told the St Petersburg Times that he had no idea how his email address had fallen into the hands of the Crist campaign, but he had repeatedly tried to unsubscribe. After his fifth unsuccessful request to be removed, Spooner sent the campaign an email of his own accusing Crist of hypocrisy after his tough public crackdown on other spammers, and has now been removed from the mailing list.
Others have complained that Crist was misusing state property and resources by sending the political emails.
"This is not spam. This is truthful, it's straight forward. We're honest. To be spam it has to be, under Florida law, defined as being deceptive," said Vivian Myrtetus, a spokeswoman for Crist's campaign. "The attorney general does not consider this spam and is, as you know, at the forefront of protecting citizens against that."
Sophos believes that the controversy in Florida highlights a fundamental flaw in the CAN-SPAM act which legislates against unsolicited nuisance email.
"Although the CAN-SPAM act has helped catch some spammers, and driven some to base their operations overseas, it has an obvious flaw: it relies on people to 'opt-out' of receiving spam rather than 'opt-in' in the first place," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant. "Regardless of whether his email campaign is legal or not, there is no doubt that this has backfired for the attorney general and he has drifted into political hot water by annoying internet users with his unsolicited emails. We would call upon everyone to not just follow the letter of the law, but to rise above it and adopt higher standards when it comes to email communications."
For more information about the latest trends in spam and viruses, read the in-depth Sophos Security Threat Management Report 2005:
Sophos recommends companies protect themselves with a consolidated solution which can defend businesses from the threats of both spam and viruses.
Sophos is headquartered in Boston, US and Oxford, UK. More information is available at www.sophos.com.