Friday, December 21, 2007

Getting Mugged By An Evil E-mail Hijacker

Many friends called me yesterday, but it wasn't the holiday spirit that prompted them to reach out. Instead, they told me they'd received a weird e-mail, bearing my name and company address, promoting a slew of electronic products as my "Christmas gift recommendations."
It quickly became apparent that my e-mail address book and signature had been hijacked by some creep, who was illegally using my imprimatur to blast this bogus commercial message out to my contacts.
Those who know me, realized immediately that something funny was going on. The fact that the "Christmas recommendations" listed prices in Euros was also a tip-off. Nonetheless, this e-mail went far and wide, including to some top media executives, business leaders and even a former Illinois governor.
Not good.
Just for the record: I've never endorsed a commercial product. That's not my line.
Solving the hijacking took longer than I wanted. It didn't help that I was out on business most of Thursday and couldn't address the problem directly until late in the day.
But with the help of the Geek Squad, some important measures were taken.
We did a deep sweep (took all night) of my computer system and upgraded the anti-virus protections. No virus (including the hated malware) was found in my computer, nor in the e-mail that was blasted--although I would not recommend clicking on any of the links embedded in that bogus e-mail. I also improved security of the Yahoo e-mail system and installed anti-hijacking software.
Finally, I filed a complaint with the Illinois State Police's Internet theft unit.
It's a long shot, but let's hope they catch the jerk behind this caper. Industry data says that 90 percent of businesses have been a victim of Internet crime and 80 percent have suffered some financial loss because of it. I just joined the crowd.
Meanwhile, everyone should give themselves a holiday gift and upgrade their anti-virus software and online security.
Don't let e-mail identity theft happen to you!
Believe me, it's a giant hassle and no way to re-connect with old friends.

(Illustration courtesy of Flickr.com)

2 comments:

Pat said...

Bob,
Thanks for blogging about this. I was one of the people on your route list and phoned you in horror. What a dirty trick. But it goes to the heart of another grave matter that Americans fail to grasp--the importance of protecting our privacy. Recently, the Pew Charitable Trust released researched on the matter finding that Americans are blase about Internet privacy. My theory is that they're indifferent because they can't conjour a picture for the negative effects of Internet piracy. Your story makes it crystal clear. It cost you precious time and resources and nearly damaged your reputation! It's a case study for why the wild, wild west of the Internet needs a little more law and order.
Patricia Martin

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