Attachment Issues

It seems lately that the incidence of virus-laden emails has skyrocketed. I’m referring to unsolicited email messages that include an attachment.

I don’t know if it’s a trend or if I just noticed it, but the spammers who send virus-infected emails have absolutely no creativity. I began to count the subject of these messages when I noticed about 20 emails with the subject “Report” and an attachment. The following table is by no means completely accurate because at first I was deleting the messages without reading them. The table lists a sampling of the messages I received over the past few days. All of the sender email addresses seem to be different but that’s easily spoofed. So here are the counts…

Subject Approximate Count
Report 130
Sales Charts 101
Confirmation Letter 100
Paid Bills 80
Business Card 20
Please Sign 19
FW: New Invoices 12
Emailing Picture 11
Emailing Image 10
Emailing Invoice 2
Emailing Document 2

It would seem that even an idiot would realize that someone receiving dozens of the same message would become suspicious. Even so, this little exercise leads me to wonder how these things start. Is there a course for “evil-doers” somewhere that teaches them how to attach viruses? Or maybe it’s a service that sends new virus and phishing messages to its members every day. I hardly think that 130 different people came up with the same idea at the same time. Maybe there is a server somewhere that sends out the messages with spoofed return addresses. But if so, why would they send 130 copies of the same message to the same email address?

Perhaps it’s because I have used the email address in question for so many years. I’ve had it since 1998, and made the mistake of publishing it on my websites for several years before I learned better. This account received over 1,000 emails per day and 99% of them are spam. Perhaps the average person doesn’t receive so many messages and so it doesn’t stand out so much?

I suppose the real question is how they expect to succeed with such stupid, obvious attempts. On the other hand, the return rate for legitimate advertising is supposedly 1 to 1.5% and 1,000,000 messages with only a 1% return rate means 10,000 responses.

I just had a rather more creative spam experience, by the way. I suppose they aren’t all idiots. At least, not complete idiots, because this was one of those “you may have inherited a fortune” messages. What made it clever was the way it was presented. About fifteen minutes or so ago, I was presented with this popup:

Meeting reminder
A Meeting Reminder I received today.

This popup was a meeting reminder that I hadn’t noticed or accepted, of course, and when I opened the message it had come with, it told me that the meeting was with an attorney for a man who used to work for an oil company in Ghana. Apparently, he and his family had died, tragically, in an automobile accident and this attorney thought I might be related to him.

All right, so I won’t be inheriting a fortune. Heck, if I respond, I probably will be lucky to have a roof over my head. The thing that makes this interesting, however, is the fact that the message came with an attachment that originated at Yahoo calendar. And Outlook inserted it into my calendar without question. Apparently, because .ics represents a valid appointment, it isn’t considered dangerous. Then again…

Keep an eye on your calendar. If you didn’t make the appointment, or expect to receive the invitation, don’t accept it and certainly don’t keep it. You never know who is on the other end.

What interesting or unusual virus/spam emails have you received lately? Tell me about them. After all, I have attachment issues.