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Home Insights Don’t be Complacent – It’s All Too Easy to Fall Victim to Malware Attacks

Don’t be Complacent – It’s All Too Easy to Fall Victim to Malware Attacks

by Brett M. Christensen

Online criminals long ago realized that the simplest ruses are often the most effective. The malware email I discuss in this report is a good example of such a simple approach.

The email has a subject line pertaining to a payslip and a brief message about a missed payment in the body. What looks like a Microsoft Excel file is attached. That’s it. That’s all there is.

A screenshot of the malware email:

Payslip Malware Email

Let’s build a scenario

1: It’s a very busy day at the office. Your inbox is overloaded. You’re trying to deal with constant interruptions and demands on your time while attempting to verify client applications. You’re tired, stressed, and overworked.

2. Your inbox pings and you see an email about a payslip along with a vague reference to a missed payment. In your flustered state, you mistakenly believe that the email contains the information you’ve been waiting for regarding a new client application. So, without much thought, you click the attachment, which appears to contain a Microsoft Excel document.

4. A popup window claims that the document is “protected” and you must tick a security setting to enable access. Distracted by a buzzing phone, you do so.

5. A generic Excel document now opens. But, meanwhile, a malicious macro downloads and installs malware on your computer.

The malware now locks up the files on your company’s computers and demands that you pay a ransom to restore access to them. Or the malware may work in the background collecting sensitive information such as account passwords that will allow criminals to take control of your company’s computers and steal sensitive information at will.

Malware Infections Can Happen In Seconds

All of this can happen in just a few seconds.

Given the right set of circumstances, even experienced computer users can get caught in a malware trap. It only takes a momentary lapse in concentration on a stressful, busy day.

Of course, there are countless variations of the above scenario. Many versions of the scam emails try to trick you into visiting a malicious website rather than opening an attached file. They use many different cover stories to get people to click. They reference many different software applications, online services, or companies.

The example discussed here uses malicious macros to get the malware on your computer. But criminals deploy many other methods to infect your systems.

How to protect yourself

So, how do you protect yourself from such attacks?

By all means, use antivirus and anti-malware software and keep it up to date. Keep your operating system, browsers, and other software up to date as well. That’s important, for sure!

But, above all, makes sure that you are thoroughly familiar with how online crooks operate so that you can instantly recognize their attacks, even if you are busy, tired and stressed.

The best virus protection of all is that lump of grey matter nestled between your ears.

Engage Your Brain

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay


Importance Notice

After considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.

These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.

Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.

And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.

When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.

I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.

A Big Thank You

I would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.

I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.

Closing Date

Hoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.

Thank you, one and all!

Brett Christensen,