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Know Thy Email and Protect Thyself

Ignorance is not a good enough excuse to keep your email address from being black listed.

Recently there's an email circulating with a WordPress link that included "/wp-content/themes/" as part of the URL. Normally the "/wp-content/themes/" would not be shared between friends, so this was immediately fishy to us here. But you might not know that yourself, so here's a better way to keep alert...

Spam, virus, and phishing emails do their best to disguise themselves as legitimate emails from your friends. Some even attempt to use friendly banter to lure you into clicking a link. In the past few days the culprit looked like an innocuous email with a single URL.

Naturally it looks normal since our clients and friends were sending this email, but other than the long URL the senders didn't write anything in the email. Looking closely at the emails we also saw that several other people were included in the email.

Clicking that link causes trouble, and leads to hacking of your email account and sending the same email to everyone in your own address book. It's embarrassing enough to be the reason your friends receive spam, but this is also how you get your own email black listed.

You probably have several dozen emails in your address book for friends and customers that use Gmail, Yahoo, and AOL. Consider the growing popularity of Google Apps and you might have more Gmail users in your address book than you even know.

Typically when an email account is compromised, it will send out several emails at a time. When this happens there's a really good chance that AOL, Gmail, and Yahoo will immediately blacklist you. They are trying to protect their users; which means they block people who send too many bad emails at one time. It doesn't matter if it was an accident or a virus; those services will block (aka blacklist) you.

AOL, Yahoo, and even Gmail accounts are often attacked and cracked into. Account cracking is often successful because of weak passwords or because you clicked a link that granted access into your account. Then the cycle starts all over again.

Here's a quick checklist to protect your own email account:

Email Warning Sign #1
If the email has more than 3 other recipients that you do not know, it's probably spam or dangerous.

Email Warning Sign #2
If the email does not have your real email address as a recipient, it's probably spam.

Email Warning Sign #3
If the email has a link to a website, but nothing else, it's probably dangerous. Don't click the link. Contact the sender if you know them, otherwise delete the email.

Email Warning Sign #4
Before clicking any link you should first hover over it and read what the link says in your web browser says in the status area, or what your email program says. Normally the status area is in the bottom left of your window. There is serious danger if the status area link does not match what you see in the email, even and especially if it's very close. Clicking that link will lead to virus infection or phishing, or both.

Final tip for the day:
Improve the strength of your passwords. Especially stay away from "diamond" and "diamond1" since so many jewelers use that. Always include a mixture of letters, numbers, and special characters in your password.

If ever you have email doubts, you should always protect yourself by simply deleting the email. If you don't know the sender, you could also market the email as spam but be kind if they're your friend: they probably don't know they did it
AT: 06/19/2012 11:39:19 PM   LINK TO THIS GOLD NUGGET
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