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Virus Threat from Innocent Looking Emails


By steve - Posted on 22 August 2007

The latest threat in the ongoing struggle against viruses is the innocent email with a link to an infected website. The attack actually comes once you follow a link to a web address. The email itself can be safely deleted as it only contains a link, not the virus. Most antivirus software that I've seen does not detect the email as a threat. A compromised website (or one setup just to send out the virus) will have some kind of automatically executing code that will take advantage of a flaw in windows or internet explorer and install something on your system, maybe even if you are running at reduced user rights.

The attacks started in July 2007 with "you have an e-greeting card" types of messages. Now we are seeing an increase in "membership info" messages. For instance, you might receive an "acknowledgement" for your new membership in the "Bartenders Guide" or some other website. The messages are usually plain text and don't have the usual misspellings and formatting problems that are common for bogus messages.

The biggest tipoff is that the link for you to log in is always (so far) a numeric IP address instead of a domain name. For instance, the link will be to http://123.123.123.123 instead of http://www.mojocode.com

In the future, the email will change from login information to prize winning or some other attractive "what will it hurt to look" draws. There may even be full domain names in the link. Instead of bogus login information, you'll see your email address as the login and a password derived from that information (for instance it would say my user id is stevenj@mojocode.com and my password is stevej100 or something else that might make sense to me).

The safest thing to do is to only trust emails that come in immediately after you sign up for membership somewhere, have full domain names that match the site you signed up for, and that match the information you provided. Avoid anything that seems close to what you would use or interesting such that you are tempted to find out what it is all about. If you are responsible for your PC (like with your home PC), you would do well to setup Microsoft Update for automatic updates and automatic reboot and keep your system updated. Also keep your antivirus up-to-date.

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