Obama Most Popular Spam Subject: McAfee Report

In addition, the report found that spammers increasingly relied on free hosting sites to push spam campaigns, and users were treated to an upward spike of pharmaceutical spam containing advertisements for Pfizer.

McAfee researchers said that the Top 25 most popular male and female celebrity spam subjects were "always amusing."

"We were surprised Obama was so high up on that one," said Adam Wosotowsy, anti-spam technology lead for McAfee Labs and one of the study's co-authors.

According to the report, Obama came out first as the most popular male spam subject, followed by Michael Jackson, George Bush and Brad Pitt. For the women, Angelina Jolie emerged as the most sought after spam target, followed by Oprah Winfrey, Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.

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Another significant highlight included in the report was an upsurge of spam around mid-December. Specifically, researchers said that they saw a 70 percent increase in spam volume from the beginning of December to the end of the month, attributed to a huge uptick of pharmaceutical spam in the form of Chinese newsletter pharmacy e-mails that carried the subject "Pfizer 80 percent off" and contained images of Viagra pills.

The upsurge counters overall downward spam trends, which had been observed following the 2008 take down of ISP McColo, researchers said. Prior to December 2009, researchers saw a significant downturn in spam volumes as the result of concerted efforts on the part of the Chinese government to curb unsolicited e-mail. In particular, the Chinese government forced domain name applicants to include a formal paper-based application when submitting an application to the Chinese registrar, which included the original application form with business seal, company business license, and photocopy of the applicant's ID, Wosotowsy said.

However McAfee researchers maintain that some upward spikes might occur as spammers relocate and refocus their efforts on alternative Chinese registrars and ISPs.

"If China is cracking down on registration issues, it's not all going to be clean. They're going to push the spammers from one registrar to another until the law catches up to the will of the leadership," Wosotowsky said. "It's my hope we continue to see spam volumes drop back down again."

In addition, the McAfee report indicated that spammers are increasingly taking advantage of complimentary subdomains offered to users through online hosting companies to forward their spam campaigns. Wosotowsky said that in recent months he has seen a barrage of small hosting companies emerge providing free Web space to anyone who requests it.

"They started to use what looked almost like small time hosting shops, right along with short link Web sites," he said, adding that hosting companies should be more discriminating about their customers in an effort to avoid aiding spammers. "People need to watch when they're giving that stuff out. If you're going to allow it for free, you have to take some steps to make sure they're using your resources with reasonable usage patterns."