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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Ron Paul Spam an attempt to block campaign email?

After writing my previous article about the email spam advertising the 2008 Ron Paul presidential campaign, I was left wondering: why?

Why would someone use a method so polarizing as spam in a popularity contest? The tinfoil beanie wearer in me came up with a very insidious reason.

So let's say that you are an opponent of Ron Paul, and you want to limit his reach. Where is his campaign most effective? That's right, online. You can't block his campaigners on digg, et al., but maybe you can prevent email.

No really, and here's how it works:

Send out all of Ron Paul's campaign ideas, use his bumper sticker phrases: "Ron Paul has never voted for a tax increase", and make double sure that the email will get caught as spam.

About Bayesian Filters
Now, most people who have used anti-spam tools have probably heard of a Bayesian Filter, but what you may not realize is that Bayesian Filters are subject to poisoning. You've seen this before, in spam that seems to have unusual strings of semantically incoherent words, or direct quotes from the news or literary sources. This is an attempt to "trick" a bayesian filter.

What you may or may not remember is that most of this was preceded by mail that looked similar, but contained no actual advertisement. This was an attempt at pre-training the bayesian filter to accept the later spam.

How does this effect legitimate mail?
Now back to the Ron Paul spam: if these mails are caught as spam (and they are a very obvious form of spam-- any spam filter should catch it, and MessageGate certainly nails the headers), then the phrases contained in the email get added to the bayesian spam bucket" and are henceforth used as indicators of spam. Then, when the Ron Paul campaign sends out a legitimate mail (say, one that you actually asked for), it will be categorized as spam by the bayesian filter.

That would be particularly devastating to a campaign that seems to be almost entirely dependent on the Internet.

I'm not saying that this is actually what happened, but it's interesting to think about.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this. I don't put anything past Ron Paul's opponents. They're dishonest and power hungry. Anyone or anything that might get in their way must be destroyed. Stealth tactics are always preferred, but with people like you figuring it out, we have now gained a possible edge. Thanks!