How would you respond if a stranger phoned you, and promised that you
make a lot of money if you would just tell him or her your bank branch
account number? How about if a stranger tried to get your attention in
parking lot promising that he had naked photos of a Russian tennis star
Most of us would ignore these sleazy propositions if they were made
But when the same proposals are made in an e-mail message, many of us
our street smarts. This week, I got an e-mail message labelled
from Zainab Abacha, claiming that I can help her Nigerian family
US$22.5 million that they have in cash in neighbouring Benin. For my
I can earn a 10-per-cent reward.
If I respond to this message, Abacha promises to "instruct our family
in London to contact and give you further instructions." (I may have
myself by ignoring her request to keep her offer "highly
Nigerian e-mail scams such as this one account for 15 per cent of all
of Internet fraud made to the U.S.-based National White Collar Crime
two unidentified complainants lost more than US$70,000 each. Recently,
Washington Post discussed a Canadian businessman duped out of $750,000.
During the same week, I averaged three to four messages a day with
infected with the Klez virus. They bear a variety of subject lines and
and the attachments have a variety of file names. Some ask for help
a computer problem (just like legitimate messages I often get), others
me to look at a program they just wrote. Several are cheeky enough to
me of virus infections, and suggest I run the attachment to clean my
One came to me from an old friend.
Despite the barrage, my system has not been infected. I keep Symantec's
AntiVirus software running, letting it check my e-mail and attachments
they are received. I've set it to update its virus information on a
basis. It has warned me about each of the Klez-bearing attachments.
Even so, don't expect a piece of software to replace your healthy
Last year, I got a dozen identical messages and attachments that NAV
flag as dangerous. It turned out that I was receiving infected messages
Symantec updated its virus information files. Because I didn't open the
I wasn't infected. What you can do:
Get an antivirus program that checks incoming
it, and keep its information files up to date.
Outlook and Outlook Express users are the most
using a different e-mail program. (I use the free Eudora Pro.)
If you must use one of the Outlooks, download all
security patches. Add your own address to your Outlook address book, so
it starts sending out messages on its own, at least you'll know about
Stay paranoid. If your mother had known about the
she would have warned you to never open attachments from strangers.
mother would have been right
Be suspicious of attachments from people you know.
not something you were expecting, contact them and verify that they
to send it before you open it.
Anything that sounds too good to be true probably
of us work by this principle in the real world. It's equally true in
If you get infected, know that Symantec and other
makers provide free tools for removing infections.
Finally, consider moving away from Windows. There
no viruses being written for Mac and Linux computers.
Some clever viruses have started sending out messages with return
stolen from the infected address books. As a result, some people have
infected attachments that claimed to be from me. It's not true. Really.