Trojan Horse Email

Trojan horse email offers the promise of something you might be interested in—an attachment containing a joke, a photograph, or a patch for a software vulnerability. When opened, however, the attachment may do any or all of the following:

  1. create a security vulnerability on your computer
  2. open a secret “backdoor” to allow an attacker future illicit access to your computer
  3. install software that logs your keystrokes and sends the logs to an attacker, allowing the attacker to ferret out your passwords and other important information
  4. install software that monitors your online transactions and activities
  5. provide an attacker access to your files
  6. turn your computer into a “bot” an attacker can use to send spam, launch denial-of-service attacks, or spread the virus to other computers

What to Look For

Trojan horse emails have come in a variety of packages over the years. One of the most notorious was the “Love Bug” virus, attached to an email with the subject line “I Love You” and which asked the recipient to view the attached “love letter.” Other Trojan horse emails have included the following:

  • email posing as virtual postcard
  • email masquerading as security bulletin from a software vendor requesting the recipient apply an attached “patch”
  • email with the subject line “funny” encouraging the recipient to view the attached “joke”
  • email claiming to be from an antivirus vendor encouraging the recipient to install the attached “virus sweeper” free of charge
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