Thursday, February 6, 2014


A screenshot of my nasty infection
Over the past several months, I’ve been getting more and more strange emails from various senders. The subject line may read, “Evition (sic) notice No8064” or "Bank of America Alert” or "Court notification” or “Shipping Notification” from some random legitimate busines that I may or may not have ordered from. Each of these message carry an attachment that just begs to be opened.

I’m not being “evited” from my building nor do I have an account at Bank of America nor do I have any upcoming court appearances--that I know of. These are all examples of a combination of a phishing scam and plain old email attachments that contain a virus. A “phish” attack is an email that looks like it is from a legitimate business--usually a bank. Phishes often “warn” you about some sort of account breach and ask you to click on a link to “verify” your username and password so they can “help” you. It is clearly a scam and once they have your username password they will take advantage of you in various ways.

Plain old infected emails have been around for a very long time and contain an attachment that harbors a trojan virus. A trojan looks innocent enough but when you click on it, it installs some sort of nastiness that will infect your computer.

I was curious of what particular virus these messages were trying to infect me with. So I unboxed a brand new computer, accessed some of these suspicious emails, and clicked on the attachments. Nothing seemed to happen. We then scanned the system for viruses and, sure ‘nuff, I had contracted a fake antivirus program.

For those of you who use standard email programs such as Outlook or web-based email from Comcast or AT&T, these emails come straight to you and you get to decide what to do with them. My advice would be to simply ignore them. They can’t harm your computer unless you actually click on the attachment. But, bless your hearts, many of you just can’t seem to resist and click stuff just to see what happens. That is very good for business so thank you. Really.

But if you would rather avoid people like me, there is a solution. I have configured my free Gmail account to check all my other email accounts so that all my mail comes into one Gmail account. It’s pretty handy since it scrubs all my mail of spam and synchronizes my mail across all my devices--tablet, smart phone, home and office computers. The relevant point here is that it also blocks any message that contain a virus. I wrote about how to do this before so check out my blog if you want to know more. When properly configured, the only thing you will see is a message that reads, “The message “(description of the infected message and who it came from) contained a virus or a suspicious attachment. It was therefore not fetched from your account.”

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