Ron Paul and the Lone Spammer

Slate editorial assistant Chris Wilson sends the latest on the mysterious Ron Paul spamming saga:

Ron Paul’s online fan club has made an art out of flooding sites with praise for the Texas libertarian, so much that they’ve been accused of spamming . So when e-mails with subject lines like “IRS Fears Ron Paul?” or “Ron Paul Wins GOP Debate!” started cropping up in inboxes in late October, some people wondered whether it was part of some vast libertarian conspiracy. Well, was it?

Probably not, says computer sleuth (and Ron Paul fan ) Joe Stewart. Stewart tracked the messages back to one spammer named “nenastnyj,” whom Stewart calls “Nina.” In other words, this wasn’t the work of tech-savvy Paul supporters coordinating a spamming campaign on behalf of their man. Instead, it appears to ratify the “lone spammer” theory that one individual paid Nina to send out millions of messages.

Stewart, a senior analyst at the Atlanta-based SecureWorks firm, discovered that, like most spam these days, the Ron Paul messages were coming from computers infected with a malicious program. He traced the infected machines back to a command-and-control server in the United States, where he got a copy of the program being used to send spam. Nina turned out just to be a middleman who ran spam projects through a much larger operation.

Whoever paid Nina to send out the e-mails probably knew him already, Stewart says. While it’s easy to hire a spammer on various hacker forums, Nina doesn’t advertise his services anywhere public and would be hard for a first-timer to locate. Is it possible Nina is just another Ron Paul fan? Unlikely, Joe says, given comments Nina has made on hacker forums.

Paul campaign spokesman Jesse Benton describes the findings as “vindicating” for anyone who suspected foul play from the campaign.

For more details, check out Stewart’s report here .