Spams, scams and suspicions

I decided to have a look at some of the rubbish in my spam folder… there are some pretty nasty traps for the unwary. Don’t be one of them. PAUL WALLBANK

Paul Wallbank Tech Talk blog

By Paul Wallbank

In a classic case of “practice what I preach, not what I do”, I read the dozens of spam messages that find their way into my inbox each day.

So it wasn’t a surprise last week to see the ACCC Scamwatch website warn consumers about the airline ticket emails that had been swarming around for some time.

These emails have an attachment that purports to be an airline ticket. The idea is that furious people will open the attachment to get the unwanted ticket’s details so they can reverse the transaction.

That attachment really contains the latest version of the Zbot Trojan. This nasty little beast pulls all the tricks in the book, including disabling firewalls, shutting down your anti-virus program, spamming your contact lists and, finally, stealing your online banking details.

The hook itself is an old one, similar to the Anna Kournikova virus of 2001, just using anger instead of lust.

The main differences between Zbot and Anna show just how the game, and the stakes involved, have changed in the last few years.

The writer of the Anna virus was a young guy working at a computer shop who simply wanted to show how good he was by jamming up the world’s email servers.

Zbot on the other hand brings together all the baddies; the fraudsters, the spammers and virus writers, to form a pretty formidable combination of crooks that want to get into your bank account.

We need to be careful with these scams as this Trojan and the tricks it uses are rapidly being rewritten by the bad guys and many anti-virus programs are having trouble keeping up with the changes.

Here’s some safe computing suggestions, but check with your IT people that you are doing these to keep your system safe;

  1. Keep your system up-to-date with the latest security patches. This is important regardless of what type of computer you use.
  2. Make sure you have up-to-date malware protection.
  3. If you are using Windows, run as a restricted user. This means you can’t run anything that will damage your system. Unfortunately some programs don’t like this so this may not be an option for you.
  4. Do not open anything with an attachment unless you have confirmed with the sender this is a legitimate file.
  5. If you are suspicious about anything, leave it alone.

The last point is the most important. The internet bad guys are pretty good at taking advantage of the unwary. Don’t be one of them.


Paul Wallbank is Australia’s most heard computer commentator with his regular computer advice spots on ABC Radio. He’s written five computer books and just finished the latest Australian adaptation of Internet for Dummies. Paul founded and built up a national IT support company, PC Rescue and has a free help website at IT Queries. Today he spends most of his time consulting and advising community and business groups on getting the most from their technology.

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