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CAVEAT EMPTOR:
Don't Open Unknown E-Mail Attachments!

03/02/04

911 Graphic

It was a crack-brained scheme that cost taxpayers a bundle.

In July of 2002, a number of folks in cities across the country suddenly received an email over their WebTV service. It was cute -- it offered, free of charge, to change the colors that were displayed on their television screens. Just click on this attachment, it said.

People in some 13 states, from New York to California, from South Dakota to Texas, CLICKED. And sure enough, the display settings on their television screens changed.

But that's not all that changed. One click... and a software program was executed that made each person's WebTV box dial, just like a telephone, the telephone number 9-1-1 the very next time that person tried to connect to the Internet through the WebTV service.

It sounds funny, but it isn't. Dialing 9-1-1 is never a joking matter. Local police dispatchers responded immediately, pulling out all the stops as they always do. Taxpayer money down the tubes. Not to mention the distress of the WebTV users who were left to contend with feeling vulnerable and having to clean up that malicious script.

Microsoft, who owns WebTV, opened an investigation... and contacted our San Francisco office. Just last month we arrested a man in Louisiana for allegedly sending the malicious scripts through the WebTV servers in California. He was charged with two counts of intentionally causing damage to computers and causing a threat to public health and safety in violation of Title 18, U.S. Code, 1030(a)(5)(A)(i).

Two messages here:
1. In the end, the FBI is going to get its man.
2. Don't open unknown email attachments!

P.S. And that includes the recently released "Netsky D" worm that might show up in your mailbox with a terse message and an attached .pif file. If you open it, it will replicate itself, clogging computers and email bandwidth. Caveat emptor. Let the buyer beware.

Links: Go to our e-scams and warnings page to refresh your memory of common computer and email scams. And read the press release for details on the case.