It is the season to be jolly – and the season to be careful. The phishermen and phisherwomen are out in full force plying their trade with vigor. During the holidays, for some reason, people seem to be more vulnerable.
You’ll see tons of emails supposedly from UPS, FedEx and DHL with official looking tracking numbers and telling you that your package has been shipped. Unless you have really shipped a package, these emails are either phishing emails — or they contain an attachment which, if opened, and you’re unprotected, will infect your system with all manner of undesirable things – including botnets which will turn an unprotected computer into a spam-sending robot.
But as sophisticated as some of these phishing emails appear to be they all have recognizable characteristics, not all of which are as obvious as the current one purportedly from Verizon Wireless which contains an attachment, which if opened on an unprotected computer, would surely turn it into a spam-sending zombie.
Read this notice supposedly from Verizon Wireless:
We had to take a screen shot of the email, actually typing that in this newsletter would have surely sent many ISP’s censorship software into a tizzy. Take a look at that email. Who would fall for something like that? “Hello dear!”. Do any of you think Verizon would ever send an email addressing you as “Dear”? And look at the amount due $0109.00. Wow. Have you ever seen a bill with an amount due showing $0109.00? Maybe it’s some kind of secret code?
You might be laughing at that email supposedly from Verizon, but sadly thousands, if not tens of thousands of computers, have been infected because of people using unprotected or outdated computers (no antivirus and no antispyware installed) who opened the attachment contained in this email. And now those computers are part of some spam network sending out millions of spam emails all over the world. And maybe worse than spam – maybe they are sending out copies of this same email with the same attachment. When botnets send out hundreds of millions of emails, it only takes just a few naive people (who open every attachment they get and think every email is legitimate), to open the attachment and become part of a huge network of PCs turned into zombies, controlled by an individual or a group of individuals.
There will be a lot of these kinds of emails coming your way over the next two weeks. The closer we get to Christmas the more of these kinds of emails you are likely to see. Don’t get careless and let the spirit of the season cause you to forget that not everyone believes in peace on Earth and goodwill to all. Keep your antivirus and antispyware programs up-to-date. Keep your browser up-to-date. Make sure you install all critical Windows updates promptly. Regard any email you receive with an attachment with skepticism. Be careful, but don’t let worry ruin your holiday spirit.