Trump Winning Spam Race By Huge Margin

Republican Presidential contender’s name appears nearly 170 times more often in spam email subject lines than Clinton’s over last two months.

3 Min Read

One race in which Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump appears to be handily trouncing rival Hillary Clinton is in the number of election-themed spam messages featuring his name.

In June and July, e-mail lures with the word “trump” in the subject header appeared in nearly 170 times as many messages as those with the word “clinton”, an analysis of election-themed spam by security vendor Proofpoint has shown.

Proofpoint scanned the subject lines in spam messages directed at its customer base in the last two months and observed what it described as a disproportionate number of emails featuring the controversial Republican nominee’s name. The emails represented a mix of text-based spam lures with embedded links and credential phishing attempts.

In June, Trump’s name appeared 270 times more often than Clinton’s name in spam email headers.A lot of the disproportionality had to do with two major Trump-themed spam campaigns that were launched in June, Proofpoint said.

In July, the difference was less stark with Trump-themed spam messages appearing a mere 67 times more often than email lures with Clinton’s name. When averaged across the two months, Trump’s name appeared 170 times more often as his Democratic rival’s in email subject lines.

Overall, the volume of election-themed spam messages per day fell sharply in July compared to the previous month as the effect of the two major Trump campaigns that were launched in June, faded out, Proofpoint said.  But even with the drop-off, the median number of spam messages per day was about 37 percent higher than usual in July.

That number “is more in line with our expectations that attackers would seek to make the most of public attention around the Democratic and Republican conventions,” the company said in its alert.

The spam messages that Proofpoint intercepted over the two months included both text-based messages and messages with graphics and images embedded in them. Many of the messages purported to contain some surprising news about either the election in general or about Trump in particular in an attempt to get users to click on links or take some other action. 

The sending address was usually spoofed to make it appear like the email originated from CNN, Fox or other legitimate news organization.

Emails with “Get rich/smart like Trump” messages were another popular theme that Proofpoint said it uncovered in the last two months.

In addition, the vendor said it discovered some election-themed attempts at credential phishing. As one example, it pointed to an email campaign that attempted to get recipients to verify their identities using their Gmail logins so they could ostensibly participate in an election related survey.

The uptick in spam over the last couple of months is by no means surprising.  Over the past several years, spammers have shown a penchant for taking advantage of major news events—such as the earthquake in Nepal last year—to try and lure credulous users into initiating action they normally wouldn’t. 

The most recent example is the Rio Olympics. Researchers from Kaspersky Lab recently reported seeing a spike in Olympics-themed email as well as scams involving the sales of fake tickets to the games.

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About the Author(s)

Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer

Jai Vijayan is a seasoned technology reporter with over 20 years of experience in IT trade journalism. He was most recently a Senior Editor at Computerworld, where he covered information security and data privacy issues for the publication. Over the course of his 20-year career at Computerworld, Jai also covered a variety of other technology topics, including big data, Hadoop, Internet of Things, e-voting, and data analytics. Prior to Computerworld, Jai covered technology issues for The Economic Times in Bangalore, India. Jai has a Master's degree in Statistics and lives in Naperville, Ill.

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