No Rapture: the end has been delayed but watch out for apocalypse attacks

Beware: just when you thought it was safe to live again (no, you aren't dead) ... there's other stuff out there

I didn't expect to get a ticket to the rapture, but judging from the lack of abandoned vehicles it seems that the rumors of the end of the world were a bit exaggerated. However, even though the world did not come crashing to a halt today, don't let your guard down just yet. Now comes the rapture spam and apocalypse phishing attacks.

Following the revelation (pun intended) that the rapture has been unavoidably delayed, ESET's David Harley wrote a blog post assuring customers that ESET--or at least the less devout members of ESET that remain if the rapture does come--will maintain normal operations and keep an eye out for any potential threat--real or apocalyptic.

Harley explains, "We'll certainly continue to look out for the poisoned SEO (search engine optimization) that usually attaches itself to news-friendly (even sensational..) items like this, and the fake security software towards which it generally tries to lure its victims."

It's a good thing that ESET, and other security vendors, will be vigilant, and you should be as well. Let's face it, the rapture itself may be a long shot, but spam and phishing attacks that prey on the intense interest in all things rapture and apocalypse are a virtual certainty.

Hopefully users are more aware now than in years past that attackers exploit news headlines to lure victims, but it is still worth putting the reminder out there when a major event occurs. Just as with the natural disasters in Japan, or the death of Osama bin Laden, you can expect to see malicious emails, file attachments, links, social networking status updates, and more related to the rapture and the apocalypse.

What should you do? Well, the simple answer is to just delete and ignore them all. If there is breaking news, go to a trusted source to get it rather than opening a file attachment or clicking on a link in an email.

At the very least, exercise extreme caution combined with healthy skepticism. Don't fall for the trap of thinking that just because that Facebook message came from your mother, or that email was sent by your best friend, that it must be safe. Attacks like this spread by compromising one PC or user account, and then spreading to all of the contacts.

As for hyperbolic declarations of the end of the world--get used to it. Between now and the end of 2012, every event no matter how trivial will be a sign of the apocalypse to somebody. Should be a fun 18 months.

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Tags malwarephishingspamvirusesantispam

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Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
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