Spam – It's not just Viagra
March 2008 | By Damon Armour, IT security officer
It seems every morning you’re greeted by a few or more messages that were not intended for just you. Wikipedia defines: “Spamming is the abuse of electronic messaging systems to indiscriminately send unsolicited bulk messages. While the most widely recognized form of spam is email spam, the term is applied to similar abuses in other media: instant messaging spam, Usenet newsgroup spam, Web search engine spam, spam in blogs, wiki spam, mobile phone messaging spam, Internet forum spam, and junk fax transmissions.” But as the title states, spam has evolved from annoying advertising to dangerous, threatening, and exploitative.
In February, we had two perfect examples of such spam. First, we had reported cases of emails reaching members of Augusta State faculty/staff giving a warning of “bodily harm if the blackmail is not paid.” The subject of these messages was BE MORE CAREFUL. The body of the emails goes on to tell a story of someone close to you wanting to kill you. The author states that for a certain fee, he/she will reveal the name of that person to you. If you try to notify the police, he/she will be forced to carry out his/her contract.
This sort of communication is scary and unsettling. In the case of any emails such as this reaching you, notify Public Safety at 706-737-1401 and the IT Security group at firstname.lastname@example.org of the incident. We will begin an investigation and give results to the victim as soon as they become available.
The second type of dangerous spam email we are seeing is hidden within holiday greeting e-cards. What seems like an innocent email from someone to brighten your day can be cloaking a dangerous virus, malware, or worm. In this case, pay close attention to the sender of the e-card. For example, if you are not expecting a Valentine’s Day card or Easter card from your dry cleaners, then likely this is a cover.
Using good judgment is always your best option in protecting yourself from spam, especially the type intended to do harm. If you get an email and are not sure if it is spam or real, contact the ITS Help Desk at 706-737-1482 for assistance. Another resource in the battle against spam is the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Check out their site for more details at http://www.ftc.gov/spam/.