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If You Get This Email, Don’t Panic But Act

Recently, I was on my computer when this email popped up. It was from someone claiming to have hacked my PC, was watching me for months, and claimed to have infected my system with a Trojan.

My immediate thought was to just delete the email and move on, but then I reasoned that something like this will no doubt fool many people. So I decided to blog about it hoping to alert our readers and give guidance on what to do in a similar situation.

Here’s the text of the email:

If you should get an email like this, the first thing is not to panic. Let’s face it, cyber-criminals have many tools in their possession, like ransomware, that would immediately let the target know that this is a real attack. Why take the long route of explaining that my PC is infected and why my anti-virus didn’t pick it up? Just lock up my PC to get my attention.

Second: I don’t visit adult sites so there is no way I could have picked up malware from one and I never click on links in an email unless I’m absolutely sure it is legitimate; so I could not have been taken unintentionally to an infected site that way either.

Third: The fact that the hacker supposedly sent me a message using my own email address is really no great feat. Email addresses are spoofed all of the time and a skillful hacker can make an address appear legitimate. So, this alone is not proof that the hacker took control of my email account. More often than not, if a hacker did so, they would change the password to make sure I could not access my emails— proving that they hacked my account.

Fourth:Looking at the email header and using the IPWHOIS Lookup tool (https://www.ultratools.com/tools/ipWhoisLookup), I see that the IP address from the sending server is actually located in Brazil. The tool shows a name, company and email address associated with the IP address. More than likely, this server was hijacked by a cyber-criminal’s botnet.

So, should you receive an email like this, here’s what to do:

    • Think back to recent events and try to remember if you clicked on any links in an email or visited a site that you thought was legitimate and was immediately taken to another site. This will give you a clue on whether or not there may be some truth about a malware infection.
    • Make sure that you can still access your email account; then change your password immediately. If you cannot access your email account, contact your provider immediately and work with them to regain control.
    • Update your security programs and run deep anti-virus and anti-malware scans on your PC.
    • Update your operating system so your computer has the latest security patches.
    • If your email provider allows it, install multi-factor authentication (MFA) as an extra layer of security to prevent someone from unilaterally gaining access to your account.
    • Going forward, don’t click on links in emails unless you’re absolutely sure it is from a legitimate source.
      • NEVER click on shortened links on social media sites or in emails without first checking them out first.
      • Set your anti-malware program to alert you when visiting sites that are questionable (most paid programs have this protection). It is not fool-proof but will add additional layer of security.
    • ALWAYS backup your data and make sure your system can immediately restore it should you suffer a breach.

Remember, hackers are masters of writing emotionally-laden emails, trying to get their targets to react quickly, without thinking logically. Don’t fall prey to their tactics. Keep safe.