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Love and malware

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“Love is like a virus. It can happen to anybody at any time.” – Maya Angelou


It’s Valentine’s Day, and love is in the air.


Unfortunately, so are emails riddled with malware.


It seems nowadays, any holiday brings out the hackers and attackers to swindle users and businesses out of money, information, credentials, and more.


And, Valentine’s Day is not immune. It’s no longer just for romantics and lovers. It’s also for scam artists and hackers, too. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reportedly received more than 15,000 reports of romance scams in 2017, and more than half of those reports involved monetary losses, amounting to about $210 million over the past three years alone.


But, while the “lonely hearts”-type of scams can be very lucrative in the end for attackers, they are a long hustle, taking lots of time, effort, and patience by the con artist to perpetrate. Today’s attackers sometimes want to go for the quick hit.


For instance, there has been a recent uptick in Necurs botnet activity due to a wave of Valentine’s Day-related spam. These spam emails are flooding user inboxes with promises of love and romance, while encouraging recipients to share their racy photos with their new admirer. Of course, any scantily clad photos sent to the spammers are used as extortion against the poor, lovelorn individual. Or, they will simply download malware – ransomware, keyloggers, and more – onto the unsuspecting recipient’s device, and steal their credentials, banking info, and more.


But, there are many more scams and attacks that a true romantic must be on the lookout for on Valentine’s Day.


One is the phony e-card. Many people will send friends and loved ones an e-card – or electronic card – for Valentine’s Day. They’re fun and entertaining. But, attackers have also found that they can send emails that look as if they are coming from a known contact – who they may have already hacked – with links to a phony e-card website. Once a user clicks on the link in the email, malware is downloaded to their device, and they and their credentials, banking information, data and more are at risk of being stolen or corrupted.


Another Valentine’s Day scam is the fake florist email. In this case, a user receives an email that is supposedly sent from a florist, stating that they tried to deliver flowers from an admirer (but they won’t say whom in the email), but they were turned away from the recipient’s office or home, or they had the wrong physical address. The email asks the recipient to click on the link in the email and enter the right address, or to enter a time for the flower delivery to show up. And, once the recipient clicks on the web link in the email and opens the phishing website, their device is infected with malware, and they and their information – and probably their company’s data – is threatened.


Finally, there is the fraudulent flower invoice scam. A user receives an email, again supposedly from a florist, saying that the invoice for the flowers they ordered is attached. Having not ordered flowers, the email recipient is confused and concerned. Did someone steal my credit card info and order flowers? Did the florist make a mistake and send the invoice for flowers to the wrong email address? The recipient opens the attached document or clicks on the link to the “invoice” in the email that opens a website with a phony invoice. At that point, they, their device, and their information are pwned: Their device is infected with malware, and their info and data is at the mercy of the attacker.


It’s bad enough that these attacks can be perpetrated on a user’s personal computer or device. But, the damages and threats are exacerbated when the user accesses their personal email, likely via webmail like Gmail or Office 365, and opens a phony e-card, clicks on a fake florist’s emailed link, or downloads a fraudulent receipt – and they do it at work. Now, at the very least, their corporate device has been infected with malware that could hold their company’s data ransom or steal their corporate username and password; at worst, they’ve now unleashed a malware infection on their corporate network.


Romance isn’t dead. But, there must be a better way for users and employers to stop these cold-hearted, heartless attacks from happening.


And, there is. It’s isolation.


For more information on isolation, please download Menlo Security’s “State of the Web 2017” report, or access our Resources page.

Tags: malware, cyber security, isolation technology, isolation platform, virus

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