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How Are Email Viruses Still So Effective?: Lessons We Can Learn from the “Here you have” Worm

Imagine you received the following email:

Subject: Here you have

Hello:

This is The Document I told you about, you can find it Here.
(malicious link)

Please check it and reply as soon as possible.

Cheers,

If you received the “Here you have” email from someone in your list of contacts, would you click on the link? If you said yes, you’d be the latest victim of a recent email virus (there’s also an alternate version of the email that offers free porn—don’t fall for this scam either!). And don’t worry—you wouldn’t be alone. This email virus has affected thousands of people, spreading like wildfire in September and even accounting for up to 14 percent of the world’s spam during a few hours on Thursday, September 9th.

The fast-spreading email virus, or worm, to be more precise (a “worm” is just a computer virus that self-replicates), mostly affected US corporate email networks. Among its many victims were prominent organizations like Disney, Proctor and Gamble, Wells Fargo, and NASA.

This simple yet effective piece of malware is known as the “Here you have” worm—after the subject line used frequently in the infected emails (some of the emails have been found to use a different subject line, like “Just for you”). For a more technical overview of the so-called “Here you have” worm, including advice on how to remove it, click here.

How are email viruses and worms like “Here you have” so successful? You would think people would be better by now at recognizing suspicious emails, especially given the amount of experience we’ve had with email viruses in the past. They’ve been tormenting us ever since the first email virus was created in 1982.

Since then, we’ve dealt with other email viruses responsible for massive disruption, such as “Melissa” or “ILOVEYOU,” which used an attachment, “LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.TXT.vbs,” to propagate. More recently, the Conficker worm, first identified in 2008, spread so effectively that it’s now credited with producing one of the largest worm infections ever.

Email viruses of the past took advantage of people’s naïveté when it came to email, and the recent “Here you have” worm proves that we still haven’t fully learned from our mistakes. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe just how much damage an intriguing subject line can cause.

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