Spam, fram, hoaxes, urban legends and your security

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SPAM

Back in the 1970′s spam meant some sort of cooked meat in a can. Nowadays, we all know that spam means unsolicited e-mail. Spam is usually sent by unknown or otherwise unethical commercial entities with the purpose of advertising and promoting products and services for which we have no interest. Over the years we’ve seen spam for everything from free vacations to wonder bras and of course little blue pills. For the most part I think everyone can agree that spam is bad and that we should seek means and methods for eliminating it at every turn. By doing so we all save time, bandwidth and reduce the risk of getting our computers and phones infected with viruses, trojans and other sorts of computer malware.

FRAM

Now, what about fram? According to McAfee, the company that coined the term, fram is “cutesy, dopey, sappy, rarely really funny, interesting or “awesome” email forwarded to you by someone you know.”

Basically, fram is a less overt version of spam that just happens to be sent from your family and friends. I’m sure some of you have friends that would never send you a personal note but for some reason feel compelled to fill your Inbox with daily doses of fram. It’s their way of reaching out even when they have nothing of substance to say. While some of these frams might be interesting they are generally a waste of time and should be deleted mercilessly just like any other spam.

Here’s why you don’t want to be on either the receiving or sending end of fram:

  • Like spam, fram can contain computer viruses, trojans, and other forms of malware that can infect your computer or phone. Unlike spam, fram comes from someone you know and trust so it is more likely to land in your Inbox rather than the Junk or Spam folder where it belongs!
  • Because fram APPEARS to comes from someone you know and trust, your innate skepticism and self-defenses are automatically lowered. You are therefore far more likely to click on a web link or open an attachment file that may contain a virus, trojan or malware. Remember, just because you have antivirus software installed doesn’t guarantee that you won’t get a virus! Think before you click!
  • Even if all of the fram that you get seems to be benign, there may come a day when someone hijacks your friends e-mail account and sends you something that looks like benign fram but which is truly nasty. Because you are conditioned to automatically click links and open attachments from your friend you will be caught off guard and next thing you know your computer is seriously compromised or has become the newest member of a worldwide zombie bot net!
  • Worse than infecting your own computer will be the day when you realize the cutesy fram you just forwarded to all your friends and coworkers was infected with some nasty hard to remove piece of malware. Think they will want to hear from you after they’ve spent days and many dollars trying to rid their computer of the crap you sent them? Think again! Think before you hit forward or send!

Hoaxes and Urban Legends

There are many hoaxes and urban legends propagating around the world via e-mail and social networking sites like Facebook. Hoaxes and urban legends run the gamut of topics but generally take the form of a chain type e-mail or social media post. Some warn unsuspecting users of impending doom from non-existent computer viruses, others warn you not to add particular names to your social media friend list, still others promise to give money to a young cancer victim for each time you repost or resend a message. There are so many of these kinds of things floating about that it becomes difficult to keep track of them all. My general rule of thumb is to be extremely skeptical and use the delete key with abandon when on the receiving end these things. You may also find it helpful to respond to them by replying with links to sites such as snopes.com or urbanlegends.about.com showing the sender that the crap they just passed along was a complete waste of time and bandwidth. Whatever you do, don’t ever use the forward, share, or repost buttons without first checking the authenticity yourself.

 Summary

Use your brain! Think! Don’t waste time and bandwidth forwarding stuff that might contain a virus or malware. When in doubt, doubt and delete!

 

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