Virus writers are getting savvier every day. This time they're sending out emails claiming to have details on '230 dead as storm batters Europe', with a virus that gives hackers backdoor control to your computer.
News reports claim that the storms have killed at least 28 people so far, making the 230 people dead claim seemingly worthy of further investigation. Inside, the attachment comes with a range of different names, from 'Read More.exe' to 'Full Story.exe'. This makes it a classic case of 'social engineering' to trick people into opening an attachment.
Variations of the email include subject lines such as 'US Secretary of State Condoleezza...' and 'British Muslims Genocide', with attachments called 'Video.exe' or 'Full Clip.exe'.
Users of many modern email programs, such as Outlook 2003 or 2007, will find that .exe attachments are automatically blocked from being opened, with a warning describing the attachment as potentially dangerous, however users of older email programs or operating systems may not be protected, especially if their anti-virus software is out-of-date or not yet updated with the latest anti-virus definitions.
Once clicked, the attachment loads a trojan horse 'backdoor' onto your computer, allowing hackers to scan it for important private data, such as credit card details and email addresses, items that are easily sold on the hacker black market for hard cash. The affected computer systems will usually then be made part of a 'botnet', or a compromised collection of computers that can be used to send spam en-masse, perform denial or service attacks and a host of other illegal activities, all without the knowledge of the affected consumer.