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Don’t Fall for Scam Emails About the Swine Flu

When the swine flu outbreak hit the news recently, word of the illness wasn’t the only thing spreading rapidly around the globe. As usual, online identity thieves took advantage of bad news to launch a number of phishing and malware attacks.
Some phishing emails contained subject lines claiming that President Barack Obama or an assortment of celebrities were infected with the flu. The bodies of these emails contained links to sites that claimed to sell swine flu remedies. Victims who filled out the order form for these “remedies” in effect handed over their personal identifying information to data harvesters who will resell that information on the black market.
Other swine flu-related spam contained infected ZIP files that purported to offer important information from the government about the outbreak. When opened, the files downloaded a malicious executable file to start stealing information.
One last trick involved a “survey” that asked people to share their swine flu experiences by providing their phone number or email address – which the spammer would then harvest and later sell or use for their own purposes.
In essence, what we’re seeing here is spammers and phishers getting a little more creative about how they go about collecting information. Not only do they use a news event to frighten people into opening their emails, they then use topical “sales pitches,” presentations, and surveys that could fool even a fairly savvy email user. They also tend to use links to malicious sites rather than asking people to open files, since many email providers automatically block attachments from unknown senders.
To avoid becoming the victim of identity theft due to swine flu emails, you can do a couple of things:
  1. Don’t open email from an unknown or unsolicited sender.
  2. Rely on reputable news sources for information and updates about the flu.
  3. Make sure your antivirus and antispyware definitions are up to date and run a full system scan.

If you want one less security issue to worry about, you can always sign up for a service like CMIT Marathon that automatically takes care of all your updates and scans for you. To find out more, click here.


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