Ron Paul supporters may be using e-mail spam and dirty tricks to gin up support for their presidential candidate on the Internet.

"This is clearly a criminal act in support of a campaign, which has been committed with or without [its] knowledge," University of Alabama at Birmingham computer-forensics expert Gary Warner told Wired News.

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Warner was referring to a wave of pro-Paul e-mails that flooded the Internet after the most recent Republican presidential debate on Oct. 21.

The e-mails had subject lines such as "Ron Paul Wins GOP Debate! HMzjoqO" and "Ron Paul Exposes Federal Reserve! SBHBcSO."

The funny character strings are common methods to defeat spam filters.

Warner says his lab traced the e-mails back to servers in Asia, Africa, South America and Europe — signifying that whoever sent them may have used a botnet, or world-wide network of hijacked computers, to pump out massive volumes of e-mail.

"This is the first I've heard about this situation," Paul campaign spokesman Jesse Benton told Wired News.

• Click here to read the Wired News story.