Earlier this week, I received an email from my mother-in-law. The email had no subject and only contained a single link. It was a very strange link that I did not recognize. I could also see that the e-mail had been forwarded to everyone in her address book. Those clues: no subject, the odd link, and the forwarding made me wary. I suspected that the e-mail my mother-in-law had sent me - inadvertently or intentionally - was actually a virus.
After some research, I discovered that there was a new virus making the rounds. Actually, it isn’t brand new, but instead has resurfaced after a short hiatus. Most viruses are revamps of originals. Once a virus has been discovered and solutions dispensed, hackers try again, making needed adjustments.
Think of a virus as a burglar. The first time he attempts to break into your home, you make some changes – adding an alarm system, getting a guard dog – so the criminal makes adjustments and tried again.
This particular virus isn’t actually in the email itself. Instead, it’s embedded in the website that you are invited to click on. In order to send this link to everyone in your address book, a hacker breaks into your email account and send the email himself. Yahoo and Hotmail seem to be especially susceptible.
Once I realized what was going on, I emailed my mother-in-law to warn her that her email account must have been compromised and was now being used to send viruses to every e-mail address on her PC. Of course it turns out she did not send the e-mail and had never seen the link before.
If you EVER receive an e-mail that has a single link in it that you don't recognize - do NOT click on it. If you do click on it before realizing what it is, immediately run your AV program to find the virus and stop it in its tracks.
Keeping Your Email Safe
- Keep your forwards private - Everybody and their grandma doesn’t need to know that you sent that cute little forward to everyone you know. Use BCC – blind carbon copy – to keep the email addresses of others private.
- My repetitive rule - Don’t EVER post your email address online – remember, keep it protected!
- Change your password. Every now and then, change the password to your email account. Make it harder for hackers to guess it by mixing letters, numbers, and symbols.
- Don’t click on random links! If you don’t know where it came from, don’t bother.