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From my Inbox by Brandon Watts - about viruses

by SteveGargini / March 12, 2004 8:15 AM PST

Let's talk about viruses. Hey - stop the booing! I'm sure that you have probably heard and read so much information about viruses bringing apocalyptic doom to everyone. It's true that there are some feisty little buggers out there, but knowledge is your key to prevention. The majority of people just still don't get it. An e-mail could invite itself into the inbox saying, "Attached to this message is a dangerous virus. Do not open it!" You know what would happen? We'd hear of several thousand people that opened the attachment anyway due to curiosity. It used to be a little easier to identify viruses, but now these rebels are getting smarter. I received a rather clever e-mail virus that I would like to discuss further with you.

The other day I encountered an e-mail from my Internet provider's support department. It told me that my e-mail account would be cut off in three days because they were getting rid of the vintage system that I was on, and were moving to a newer system. In order to be switched over I would have to download and run the included attachment. Warning sirens should be going off in your head now.

First off, I would like to give credit to the creator of this particular hoax. Why? Because it actually looked like it came from my provider. These messages are beginning to look more and more official. It even matched the format that my provider's previous e-mails were in. They had the exact same content from the very first greeting to the sign-off. To the unsuspecting user this would seem like an important e-mail from the company, but it's not. Here's a little more information on why this was obviously a virus.

The sending name is usually something like "Your Internet Service Support," but the sender name for this e-mail was a regular address such as "yoursupport[at]internet.com." That alone was a warning sign, along with how my address was formatted. Instead of being "brandonwatts[at]adelphia.net" like I had registered with their system, it came to me as "BrandonWatts[at]adelphia.net". I had never received an e-mail from the company like this. These are subtle things, but important nonetheless.

The most obvious sign though should be that they sent me an attachment. Let's not ignore the fact that the provider would probably just switch me over to the new system automatically, but this e-mail included a file for me to run in order to register. If the company needed me to download a specific file, they most certainly would direct me to a Web location on their official site like they have in the past. They're not stupid - they know about the hoopla involved with attachments. I proceeded to call my provider to see if they were aware of the situation. Sure enough they told me that several users called in and had fallen prey to this scheme.

My point with all of this is that we have to stay one step ahead of the bad guys. We need to be prepared in advance to prevent ourselves from being duped. No matter how convincing that "official" e-mail looks, keep your senses and verify whether it's real or not. I hope everyone has learned a little something from this. Excuse me, I gotta check out this attached zip file that says it can refinance my house AND cut the cost of my long distance bill!
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