Beware of the Words ‘Swine’ and ‘Flu’ in Your Email Inbox

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception

Swine Flu Spam and Phishing Attacks
By Tony Bradley, CISSP-ISSAP
April, 27 2009

Attackers May Prey on Fears of Swine Flu Pandemic

phishing-1-200You may have seen the ‘Breaking News’ throughout the weekend regarding the deaths in Mexico from the swine flu and the announcement by Janet Napolitano, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, that the United States has declared a public health emergency after confirmed cases of the swine flu in New York, Texas, and California among other states.

Fears of a pandemic are nothing new. In 2003 we had SARS. In 2006 the world was afraid that the H5N1 strain of the bird flu could become a pandemic.

It may seem a little extreme to stoke fears of pandemic every time someone gets a flu. However, we do expect organizations like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), Department of Homeland Security, and others to be aware of the possibilities and take proactive action to both contain what outbreaks there are and to properly prepare for the potential spread of the virus.

I will exercise an appropriate amount of caution and keep my fingers crossed that this too shall pass. I’ll leave it to the medical experts to decide whether swine flu is a pandemic, or even an epidemic, and how we should respond. But, where I will intercede is to tell you to beware of the words ‘swine’ and ‘flu’ in your email inbox.

Domain names related to ‘swine flu’ are being snatched up and may be used to host malware, or for spam campaigns or phishing attacks. Any time there is a global headline such as ‘Swine Flu Pandemic’ it gets people’s attention and they want as much information and breaking news as possible. Attackers know this and prey on that fact to lure people into becoming victims of malware or phishing attacks or conning them into spending money in some way.

Be sure you exercise common sense when it comes to emails and file attachments related to swine flu. Follow the advice and tips from the articles below to protect yourself and your computer from being victimized by spam and phishing attacks.

image: How Stuff Works