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Issue 35 - Hoax-Slayer Newsletter

Issue 35: 19th August, 2004
This week in Hoax-Slayer:
Cheap Software Spam

Lately I have seen a lot of spam email that advertisers software at absurdly low prices. The spam has a link to a website where visitors can order the software products advertised. The professional looking site claims that the products can be sold so cheaply because they are OEM versions, and don't arrive with the original packaging and manual. However, I'm betting that there is a more sinister reason for the low prices. Although I can't be certain without ordering and testing some of the software, there is a strong probability that the products are illegal copies of the genuine articles. These companies often operate out of Eastern Europe which can make it difficult for legitimate software vendors to take legal action against them. The product might actually be delivered as promised, but it might well be an inferior pirated copy, and you could be breaking the law by owning and using it.

Also, from the look of it, the ordering system is not even on a secure web page, so you are expected to send credit card details unsecured. I have seen a number of virtually identical sites pushing this software. Links in the spam emails appear to be affiliate links because of the id numbers that form the end of the URL's. Possibly, affiliate partners get their own identical site and gain a percentage of any income generated via "their" site. Then they can spam as many people as possible and lead people to their affiliate site.

In any case, I wouldn't buy anything from these people. Even if the software arrives, it may be a buggy and illegal copy. Besides, I have a personal policy of *never* buying from spammers. Every time someone buys a product or service advertised in a spam email the spammers reap the benefits. If nobody ever responded to spam, the problem would go away.

Read more information about this sort of spam.

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Cell Phone Cameras and Credit Cards

There has been a lot of Internet discussion about the security risks posed by cell phone cameras. Emails, forum posts and website articles warn of the danger. Others question how real the danger actually is.

One such email warning is reproduced below. The information may be true, but I'm not sure how big a security risk this would actually pose. I would have thought that the person using the phone would have to stand pretty close to you in order to take a legible picture of you credit card. As an experiment, I tried taking a photo of my own card in a mock shopping situation with my digital camera. There is no way that I could read the numbers on the card from a photo snapped while the card was sitting on the "counter" waiting to be scanned nor over the shoulder of a person holding the card, even when using the zoom function. My camera is by no means top of the range, but it certainly has better resolution than your average cell phone camera.

Of course, I could take a clear picture of the card, but I'm not sure how I could do this without the owner of the card being aware of it. I would have to get the camera pretty close to the card, to get a clear picture.

However, I'm not dismissing this out of hand, as I guess it might be possible to distract the card owner enough to snap a quick close up shot. Also, mobile phone technology is changing rapidly. The newest wave of phones might have the necessary resolution to easily take card shots that could be deciphered later.

Right now however, I would not consider phone cameras a major threat when it comes to stealing credit card information. I haven't read about any actual victims of the scam and a lot of the warnings and reports seem to be anecdotal.

Mind you, "be aware of your surroundings" is actually quite good advice when it comes to your personal security. And it would be certainly a good idea to watch out for people acting suspiciously with cell phones. Cell phone cameras have been used to take indecent photographs, sometimes of children. With the advent of any new technology, there will be those who are willing and able to abuse it for their own ends.

An example of the message:
Keep a watch out for people standing near you at retail stores, restaurants, grocery stores, etc., that have a cell phone in hand. With camera cell phones, they can take a picture of your credit card, which gives them your name, number, and expiration date. Identification theft is one of the fastest growing scams today, and this is just another example of the means that are being used. So... be aware of your surroundings.

PASS THIS ON!!!!!!!!

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WTC Survivor Hoax Returns

Every year as the anniversary of the World Trade Center attack approaches, the WTC Survivor hoax enjoys a resurgence. At this time of year it is a common visitor to inboxes around the world. I've received a number of queries about the hoax this week and the article about it on the Hoax-Slayer website has received an increasing number of visitors.

It originally began circulating not long after the tragedy of 9/11. It disgusts me that the perpetrators of this hoax could use such a profound human tragedy to add weight to their pointless nonsense.

There is not, nor has there ever been a virus like the one described in the email.

There are several, equally nonsensical, versions of this hoax, including one rendered in Spanish. If you receive this email, please delete it without forwarding it on to others.

You can confirm the status of this hoax email via the link below:
WTC Survivor Hoax


During the next several weeks be VERY cautious about opening or launching any e-mails that refer to the World Trade Center or 9/11 in any way, regardless of who sent it. PLEASE FORWARD TO ALL YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY. FOR THOSE WHO DON'T KNOW, "WTC" STANDS FOR THE WORLD TRADE CENTER. REALLY DANGEROUS BECAUSE PEOPLE WILL OPEN IT RIGHT AWAY, THINKING IT'S A STORY RELATING TO 9/11!

BIG TROUBLE!!!! DO NOT OPEN "WTC Survivor." It is a virus that will erase your whole "C" drive.. It will come to you in the form of an E-Mail from a familiar person. I repeat, a friend sent it to me, but called and warned me before I opened it. He was not so lucky and now he can't even start his computer!

Forward this to everyone in your address book. I would rather receive this 25 times than not at all. So, if you receive an email called "WTC Survivor", do not open it. Delete it right away! This virus removes all dynamic link libraries (dll files) from your computer.


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Virus Report: Weekly Virus Wrap-Up

The list below represents some of the most significant new virus threats identified by Symantec Security Response over the last few days.

Yet another variant of the MyDoom worm, W32.Mydoom.Q@mm, is circulating. This is a worm that downloads an .exe file from a specified website, searches the infected computer for email addresses and sends itself using its own SMTP engine. The subject of the infected email will be "Photos" and the attachment name will "photos_arc.exe".

Another Beagle variant, W32.Beagle.AP@mm, is also spreading. The worm uses its own SMTP engine to send itself to email addresses it finds on the infected computer. The subject of the infected email will be either blank, or one of the following:

Re: Msg reply
Re: Hello
Re: Yahoo!
Re: Thank you!
Re: Thanks :)
RE: Text message
Re: Document
Incoming message
Re: Incoming Message
RE: Incoming Msg
RE: Message Notify
New changes
Hidden message
Fax Message Received
Protected message
RE: Protected message
Forum notify
Site changes
Re: Hi
Encrypted document

Both these worms use spoofing, which means that the email address recorded in the "From" field of the infected email is most probably not the actual sender of the virus. It is important that recipients understand this spoofing tactic before accusing others of sending virus-infected email. For a detailed explanation of spoofing see:
Email Worm Spoofing - Spoofing Explained

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Come Visit the Hoax-Slayer Forums!

I'd like to encourage readers to visit the Hoax-Slayer Forums The forums provide a place for you to discuss hoaxes and scams as well as offer feedback. However, they also give you the chance to interact with other readers and site visitors in a variety of topic categories including:

The forums now have a few members. However, I'd enjoy seeing a lot more activity there. Online forums can be a great way to exchange information, "meet" people and have some fun.

So it would be great if you would join the forums and help to get things going by posting. If you want to post, you will need to go through the simple (and free) registration process. Unfortunately, registration is necessary to prevent the forums being overrun by spammers.

Click to visit the Forums

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Freeware Review: Picasa

For the last couple of weeks I've been trying out Picasa, a digital photo organizing program. This is great software, the best I've used in the field. It's very easy to use and I love the interface. It's much better than the rather stodgy software that came with my digital camera, that's for sure.

You can use the program to easily email photos to friends and family members. Picasa also allows you to export complete albums as web pages. There are several web page templates you can choose from that generate thumbnails of the images in the album. Clicking on the thumbnails opens a full sized image. Using the "Export album as web page" option is a great way to easily share multiple photos. Once you have uploaded the web page and images to a website you can simple email the link to your friends and family.

Picasa is now owned by Google and is free. From the download site:

Everything you need to enjoy your digital photos in a single software product:

Auto-transfer photos from your digital camera. Organize and find pictures in seconds. Edit, print, and share photos with ease. Create slideshows, order prints and more!"

Find out more about Picasa

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The Hoax_Slayer Newsletter is published by:
Brett M.Christensen
Queensland, Australia
All Rights Reserved
©Brett M. Christensen, 2008
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