Happy Holiday Virus All!

I received an email notice from one of my customers today resembling one of the many virus hoax emails that we all have received. You know the ones they usually begin with...

"Hi All,

I checked with Norton Anti-Virus, and they are gearing up for this virus!
I checked Snopes , and it is for real. Get this E-mail message sent around
to your contacts ASAP.

PLEASE FORWARD THIS WARNING AMONG FRIENDS, FAMILY AND CONTACTS!

You should be alert during the next few days. Do not open any message with
an attachment entitled POSTCARD FROM HALLMARK , regardless of who sent it to you.
..."

I immediately wrote back and noted that these are usually hoaxes without looking at the original source. Turns out, I needed to pay attention. The originator was another consultant who had personal recent experience with real viruses showing up as links in holiday greetings. This incident reminded me that I should send out cautionary warnings to customers this time of year, just not in this form;-). While the hoax emails are irritating, the viruses can be very real and devastating if you have no backup of you family pictures. Viruses are really spread with links attached to innocuous looking and downright cute reindeer and elf pictures.

I do not open such things... Oh who am I kidding, I sometimes can't resist the cute little buggers either. However, I very definitely don't open them with out checking the underlying link. In many newer mail applications, when you mouse over a link, the underlying link displays in a box above and to the right of the link text. If the link is legitimate, then the start of the link should be consistent with the source of the email. If it's a card from hallmark, then hallmark.com or www.hallmark.com or somethingelse.hallmark.com will be right after the https://. BE CAREFULL! The bad guys will sometimes do something like ha11mark.com or hall-mark.com or hallmarkcom.com. It's not the same! Read very carefully before you click. It also would not hurt to send the note right back to your friend and say, "Thank you! This was so thoughtful! If you didn't send it though, I would appreciate knowing." If your friend doesn't send you back a response within a day or so to say "You're welcome.", then it's a good time note to resist opening Santa's sack.

But if you are like me and just can't wait.... Here is an example note from Paypal to show you how the link box comes up in Microsoft Outlook... I haven't received any cards yet this year, but I think you can get the idea. In this example, https://www.paypal.com... is in the start of the link shown in the box when I put my mouse on the underlined link text. Note that it doesn't matter what the text in the note says. It matters what's underneath and the only way to see that is to put your mouse on the text without clicking anything. Just let it rest there for a second or two. If the box reads something else like pay-pal.com, paypa1.com, paypal.zz, or xyzabc.com in the box, then consider it a suspicious link and DO NOT CLICK on it. Anything after the third / in the link doesn't matter as long as that first section is legitimate.

Now this doesn't even touch upon the subject of attachments on notes, this is just about the links that are in the text. Up to date Antivirus applications are important too, but for these links, a little knowledge can go a long way to a safer holiday season.

Happy approaching holidays to all.