Dodgy email 2 - the vindication
7th June 2013
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Welcome back.  If you haven’t read the first post, this will be a bit meaningless, so please don’t start here.  Read the other post first.  Because this one’s all about the second possibility, and you don’t want to be spending the whole time thinking “what’s the first possibility?” 

The second possibility (see, told you so) is that your email address has been stolen.  Welcome to the world of computer viruses, malware, or whatever.  Like it or not, email addresses are valuable.  Why else would you get “free” stuff just for handing yours over?  Because they’re valuable, people will go to some trouble to steal them.  A favourite way of stealing them is to install (without your knowledge, obviously) a little program on your computer that simply reads your address book and sends the contents back to its author.  They can then use all these email addresses in the “from” box of any email they send, or use your email address in the same way, and send an email of their choice to all your chums.

So, nine times out of ten, the embarrassing email isn’t your fault – you’ve just been unfortunate that your address was in a stolen address book, belonging to someone who’s been careless with their computer security.  The tenth time, it is your fault, because you’ve been careless.

So how does this little program get on to your computer, or your friends’ computers?  In a word, because you invited it in (OK, five words).  Somewhere, sometime, somehow, there’s a crying need to view the new Star Trek* movie without all the tediousness that is going to the cinema, so a quick Google points you to all sorts of places where you can download it for free and you click away like a mad person with clicker disease.  You don’t check that what you’re getting is at least a file that contains video, and what you actually clicked on is a computer program.  When that program says “to view film, click OK”, you click OK.  If you’re lucky, your security software will say “you really don’t want to do this”, although I remain astonished by the number of people who will still say “oh yes I do!”   If you’re unlucky, “nothing” will happen.  Everyone forgets that computers can do a million things a second, and believe me, lots has happened.   That single click of “OK” was actually “OK, please install all the nastiness that you and your mafia bosses have been able to dream up.” 

Please, people, remember the old adage – you don’t get anything for nothing.  There are lots of “free” programs, but almost all of them will as a minimum, pester you with adverts. 

Why am I telling you this?  Because I get slightly embarrassed when I charge people money to undo the “work” of someone who is a skilled (if immoral) exponent of the IT industry in which I make my living.  Nonetheless, I’ve become pretty good at getting rid of this stuff, so all is not necessarily lost, and if you’ve made these mistakes, all you have to do is get in touch

*other movies are available and yes, that sort of movie is even more likely to give you more than you bargained for.

About the Author

Graham S

Member since: 22nd April 2010

Born in Cardiff, first laid hands on a computer keyboard in 1974, Graham has a degree in Maths from Manchester University and has subsequently become a Chartered IT Professional. He's worked at all levels...

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