Monthly Archives: January 2011

Valentine’s Day = Cyber Crooks And Malware Love

Love in Your Inbox – Malware on Your Computer

imageIt’s only a few weeks until Valentine’s day, so it’s not to early to get ready for the deluge of  “I love you”, “Wish you were mine”, and of course the proverbial “Happy Valentine’s Day” emails.

Hopefully, you will have a Happy Valentine’s Day, but you won’t if you fall victim to the burst of spam that is aimed at lovers, at this time of year, every year. Much of it designed to drop malware on unsuspecting users machines.

Like clockwork, spammers and cyber crooks ramp up the volume of spam emails aimed at unsuspecting users, just prior to this day, culturally set aside as a “celebration of love”.

In previous years, starting just about this time, we saw abnormally high rates of this type of spam, and since cyber crooks are “opportunity driven”, we can expect much more of this type of cybercriminal activity this year.

Maybe you’re a very cool person who’s significant other is always sending you neat little packages in your email. Things like MP3 files, screensavers, cartoons, YouTube videos and the like. You get them so often, that you just automatically click on the email attachment without even thinking. If you are this type of person, here’s a word of advice – start thinking.

The hook, as it always is in this type of socially engineered email scam, is based on exploiting our emotions. The fact is, we are all pretty curious creatures and let’s face it, who doesn’t like surprises. I think it’s safe to say, we all find it difficult, if not irresistible, to peek at love notes received via email.

The unfortunate truth is, these spam emails often contain links that deliver advertisements, or worse redirect the victim to an unsafe site where malware can be installed on the victim’s computer.

Last year at this time, a friend, who is an astute and aware computer user, fell for one of these carefully crafted teasing emails. On opening the email, he was taken to a site which had pictures of hearts and puppies, and was then asked to choose which one was for him.


Fortunately, common sense prevailed and he backed out of this site. If he had clicked on this site, he would have begun the process of infecting his machine with a Trojan, which can connect to remote command and control sites.

Unfortunately, being smart is often NOT enough to protect yourself. Experienced users are on guard year round for these, and other types of scam/spam email.

You know what to do, right?

Don’t open emails that come from untrusted sources.

Don’t run files that you receive via email without making sure of their origin.

Don’t click links in emails. If they come from a known source, type them on the browser’s address bar.

If they come from an untrusted source, simply ignore them, as they could take you to a web site designed to download malware onto your computer.

Cyber crooks have moved on from using just emails as a malware delivery vehicle. So, be on the lookout for fraudulent Valentine’s Day greetings in:

Instant Messenger applications.



Chat forums, etc.

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Filed under cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, email scams, FaceBook, Instant Messenger Safety Tips, Internet Security Alerts, Online Safety, spam, Twitter, Windows Tips and Tools

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 31, 2011

Two Easy Mouse-Click Shortcuts You Need to Learn – Regular Hassle-Free PC readers know of my fondness for keyboard shortcuts. But let’s not overlook the mouse, which is just as capable of saving you precious seconds while you work.

The state of the internet: Summing up 2010 – A graphical representation of the Internet in 2010. Take a look at how email, social media, websites and blogs changed over the last year. (submitted by Michael F.)

Netflix Rates Broadband Providers by Bandwidth – Have you wondered how your Internet Service Provider stacks up against the competition when it comes to delivering streaming video to your home?

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Microsoft Windows MHTML XSS vulnerability – A vulnerability has been reported in Microsoft Windows, which can be exploited by malicious people to conduct cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks, according to Secunia.

New Firefox Feature Blocks Behavioral Ads – The feature will allow users to configure their Firefox browser to tell websites and advertisers that they would like to opt-out of any advertising based on their behavior, Alex Fowler [cq] wrote in his blog post. The user’s preference is communicated to websites and third party ad servers using a new “Do Not Track HTTP header”, which is sent with every click or page view in Firefox.

EFF exposes extensive FBI violations – Of the nearly 800 violations reported to the IOB, over one-third involved FBI violation of rules governing internal oversight of intelligence investigations: nearly one-third involved FBI abuse, misuse, or careless use of the Bureau’s National Security Letter authority; and almost one-fifth involved an FBI violation of the Constitution, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or other laws governing criminal investigations or intelligence gathering activities.

Get Internet Access When Your Government Shuts It Down – Does your government have an Internet kill-switch? Read our guide to Guerrilla Networking and be prepared for when the lines get cut.

Company News:


WikiLeaks’ ISP to Anonymize All Traffic to Circumvent Data Retention Law – In advance of the Swedish government implementing a law that would require all telecommunication providers to store customer data, WikiLeaks’ ISP Bahnhof said it will anonymize all customer traffic by default.

Samsung May Be Apple’s First Real Mobile Competitor: Analysts – While Apple revolutionized the mobile industry, Samsung chugged away in the background. Now it’s poised to become Apple’s first real competitor.

Off Topic (Sort of):


Vegas Casinos Face New Threat: Database Hackers – Crooks going after casinos’ valuable player rewards databases, experts worry casinos ill-equipped to secure them

5 Scientific Reasons The Dark Side Will Always Win – The Rebels got lucky. Han, Luke, Leia, that Nib-Nub guy who flew with Lando, all of them should have been death-starred hard in the face by the Empire — and not just because of the Empire’s superior numbers and technology. Darth Vader and his underlings planned every last subtle detail, right down to the color of the spaceships and Vader’s own robot voice, according to what science says works.

5 Terrifying Online Trends (Invented By the News Media) – It’s easy to forget that there is a whole world of middle-aged and elderly people out there who have at best a basic understanding of what the Internet even is. If you’re selling news, you’ll find out pretty fast that there is much more profit in keeping people scared of whatever they’re already scared of. It works very well, whether it’s communists or gang members or heavy metal devil-worship music.

Today’s Quote:


The thing always happens that you really believe in; and the belief in a thing makes it happen.”

Frank Lloyd Wright

Today’s Free Downloads:


Windows Live Writer – Windows Live Writer 11 fills a product niche I didn’t know existed: Offline blog post production tool. The program is in essence a light word processor and design app you can use to write the contents of blog posts and make them pretty. Live Writer 11 comes bundled in the free Windows Live Essentials suite (though you can install Live Writer 11 by itself, skipping the seven other bundled apps and browser toolbar, if you want).

DVDStyler – DVDStyler accepts any unprotected video file format under the sun. Simply drag and drop or browse for your AVI, MP4, WMV (or whatever) unprotected videos, and put them where you want on the DVD. I liked how straightforward DVDStyler is to use. Set each video file as its own Title (like an episode on a TV on DVD disc), or set each one up as a Chapter within a single Title (like how a movie on DVD is divided into chapters).

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Filed under Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

Download Free LiberKey Version 5 – Now With Up To 306 Portable Applications

image Previously, I’ve reviewed a number of applications which will allow you to selectively install a compilation of freeware applications, including – Ninite, and ZeuAPP. There are slight difference between these two applications, but the overall objective of each application is the same; to save the user time.

LiberKey (which I’ve also reviewed previously – version 4.1), is a compilation of freeware, and open source  portable applications, which is offered in three flavors that can be installed on, and run from, a USB drive. Additionally, the application can just as easily be installed, and run, from a Hard Drive. In fact, for this updated test and review, that’s exactly what I choose to do.

Available applications cover a huge area of interest including Audio, Video, Graphics, Internet, Games, Security, Education, System, and more.

LiberKey Basic 5: 12 Applications, Installed size: 141.58 MB

LiberKey Standard 5: 89 Applications, Installed size: 535.54 MB

LiberKey Ultimate 5: 164 Applications, Installed size: 701.47 MB

As an bonus, more applications can be added at a later date using LiberKey’s catalogue. Additionally, you have an option of building your own LiberKey platform.

There have been major changes since I first reviewed LiberKey. This time out, on launching the application, you will find that you are presented with a blank  LiberKey menu applet.


You will then have the opportunity to select the most appropriate suite for your needs. Checkout the developer’s site to view a listing of included applications.


I choose the Ultimate edition adding (164 applications), which took approximately 40 minutes to download and install (in a single seamless process), to my Hard Drive. Lots of time – but lots of applications!



Following installation, you’ll notice that the Menu has been populated.


Fast facts:


Ready to use.

Portable applications.

Automatic online updates.

You can synchronize the display of the online catalog with your LiberKey.

This can help you to locate applications that could interest you.

The portable application launcher is user friendly, and no learning curve is involved, as the following screen capture indicates. In this example, simply clicking on HD Tune, launched HD Tune – Hard Disk Utility.


With so many applications to choose from, finding the right tool for the job could be a bit of a hassle. But the developers have anticipated this, and provided a pop out description of each application – making it easy to put your finger on just the right tool.


System requirements: Windows 2000, XP, Vista, Win 7

Download at:

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Filed under Computer Tools, downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Open Source, Portable Applications, Software, System Utilities, Utilities

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 30, 2011

CNET: Security Starter Kit – Windows Security Starter Kit collects all the essential security programs you need to have to stay safe while you surf, including antivirus programs, malware removers, encryption apps, and add-ons for safe browsing.

CNET – Utilities Starter Kit – Windows Utilities Starter Kit is where you’ll find a great collection of freeware tools to keep your hard drive defragged and to clean up your Registry. There’s also archive utilities, notepad replacements, task managers, and other essential extras.

Egyptians Find New Routes to the Web – Residents turn to landline telephones, fax machines, and even ham radio to keep information flowing in and out of the country.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

How to Buy the Best PC – When buying a desktop computer you still need to make some choices when it comes to CPUs, memory, hard drive capacity, and graphics technology. The good news is your money will go a long way.

What makes cybercrime laws so difficult to enforce – Deb Shinder discusses both the difficulty of enforcing cybercrime laws and of tracking down cybercriminals in the first place.

Small Business Network Management Review: Spiceworks 5 – The last time we looked at Spiceworks, we were impressed by the small business network management tool’s capabilities, especially given its cost—a big, fat nothing — provided you’re willing to deal with a few ads. Our earlier impressions haven’t changed much with the latest offering, Spiceworks 5.0, which improves on its predecessor by delivering a slicker interface, quicker performance and an expanded repertoire of features.

Why Takedowns Don’t Reduce Online Crime – The last year has seen a string of takedowns of botnet command-and-control servers, malware drop zones, spam operations and other pieces of the crimeware infrastructure, each of which made a dent in one way or another. But the question of whether the takedowns have had any lasting effect on the overall level of crime and fraud online is a more complicated one.

Former WikiLeaks Staffers Launch ‘OpenLeaks’ Competitor Site – OpenLeaks, a whistle-blowing site founded by several former WikiLeaks staffers, has formally launched. Like WikiLeaks, the site will accept leaked documents, but unlike its controversial counterpart, OpenLeaks said it will not publish the information, only make it available to interested media organizations, NGOs, labor unions, and human rights groups.

Company News:


Hulu considers turning itself into an online cable operator – While Netflix is thriving as it turns itself into more and more into a paid online streaming service, Hulu is struggling internally to figure out what direction it will take, according to the Wall Street Journal. One idea being given serious consideration: turn Hulu into a “virtual cable operator.”

Apple Outranks Dell in Units Sold – Strong consumer sales of Apple’s iPad boosted Apple’s position in the global market to third in terms of number of machines sold, edging out Dell which fell to fourth place and Lenovo which fell to fifth, according to research firm Canalys.

Google Preparing To Launch Online Coupon Service – Google Offers will work very similarly to Groupon and LivingSocial, with business members identifying items or services to be discounted and Google preparing the ad and offering it to consumers at the website. If enough buy in, the deal goes through.

Back to Apple’s Garage – If you want to get your feet wet in music studio production, or just to start learning to play an instrument, it would be hard to find a better place to start than with Apple’s GarageBand ’11.

Off Topic (Sort of):


The Fun Theory – This site is dedicated to the thought that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better. Be it for yourself, for the environment, or for something entirely different, the only thing that matters is that it’s change for the better. (submitted by Michael F.)

Thomas Edison’s (Mostly Correct) Predictions of 2011 Tech – Thomas Edison wasn’t just the inventor of the light bulb and countless other important modern-day technologies, he was also a visionary. Witness his remarkable predictions for the year 2011, made way back in 1911. Wow, that guy was smart.

Common Drugs Deplete Nutrients – The growing fusion of natural medicines with nutrition and allopathic medicine has spawned a new area of specialization called drug/nutrient depletion. Current estimates are that 62 to 68 percent of North Americans take “alternative” medicines and therapies (including herbs, botanicals, vitamins, minerals and homeopathy). (submitted by Dar)

Working from Home: Technology to Keep You Productive – School has been canceled, the roads are dangerously slippery and you still have to prepare for that big meeting. What do you do when you are snowed in but still need to be productive? Thanks to a host of new web-based and other technologies, it’s easier than ever to collaborate and communicate with your team at work, regardless of where each member is at the moment.

Today’s Quote:


I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this, and steer clear of me at parties. Often, as a sign of their great respect, they don’t even invite me.”

Dave Barry

Today’s Free Downloads:


DVDFab Passkey Lite – DVDFab Passkey is a Windows-based driver that works on-the-fly to unprotect encrypted movie DVDs and Blu-ray discs. For DVD, it removes all DVD copy protections. For Blu-ray, it removes all known AACS and BD+ copy protections, Region Code, BD-Live and UOPs.

TweakPrefetch – TweakPrefetch is an easy to use application that is designed to manage you system’s fetching. It allows the user to set separate parameters for Prefetch and Superfetch.

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Filed under Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 29, 2011

Free Microsoft programs worth checking out – If you know where to look, you can find a variety of useful software – free from Microsoft.

Shrink a hard drive volume in Windows 7 – Use the Disk Management Tool in Windows 7 to shrink a hard disk volume so you can add a new partition.

How Egypt Turned Off the Internet – Yesterday something unprecedented happened: Egypt turned off the internet. A nation of 80,000,000 instantly disconnected. So how’d they do it?

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Who’s watching you? Online fears revealed – Despite lingering concerns about the U.S. economic recovery, Americans worry more about having their online privacy violated (25%) than declaring bankruptcy (23%) or losing their job (22%). Research by Opera Software in the United States, Japan and Russia examines what people worry about online.

Screenshots: New features from LibreOffice 3.3 – The Document Foundations debuts its first full, stable (and free) release of the next generation of OpenOffice – LibreOffice 3.3.

SourceForge Site Compromised By Attackers – The recent rash of attacks against free and open source software projects continued this week with an attack that targeted SourceForge, the popular repository for open source projects. The attack compromised a number of separate systems, including the site’s CVS system.

Worrying increase in surveillance across Europe – A landmark EU-wide study of national privacy safeguards shows a decline in privacy protection across Europe and a steep increase in state surveillance over the lives of individuals. The study includes a rating for EU member states and accession candidate countries. This rating pits Britain and Ireland fighting over the bottom of the privacy league.

Spammers take advantage of the Facebook API bug? – It seems that high-profile accounts and Facebook pages might not be the only ones messed with by individuals taking advantage of the bug found in Facebook’s API.

Company News:


RSA Offers Authentication Manager Express – EMC’s security division has designed this risk-based on-demand authentication system to provide secure access to VPNs and online portals. The technology is aimed at the SMB market and is available through RSA’s channel partners and distributors.

Has Larry Page doomed Google? – Silicon Valley’s most successful 1-trick pony, Internet advertising firm Google, has a new CEO. If his track record is any guide, Larry Page has just doomed Google to a slow and painful death.

IE9 Release Candidate to be unveiled February 10 – Microsoft just sent out invitations to an event in San Francisco on February 10. According to the e-mail, the Internet Explorer team will “share some important news.”

Off Topic (Sort of):


How to wrestle with a home network and win – I sometimes wonder how the average consumer avoids going crazy when confronted with modern home networks. Things can get especially ugly when you add consumer-grade networking hardware and buggy firmware into the mix.

Take off those earbuds and pay attention – or face a fine? – By now, you’ve surely heard about the video of the woman who walked right into a shopping mall fountain because she was texting instead of paying attention to her surroundings.

A look inside the original Macintosh (photos) – Twenty-seven years ago this week, Apple unveiled its 128K wonder that changed personal computing.

Today’s Quote:


When ideas fail, words come in very handy.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Today’s Free Downloads:


Weather – Weather is an extension for Google Chrome. The Weather extension will automatically geolocate you, and display the closest city weather forecast. A browser icon indicates the daily forecast and temperature.

FlashCookiesView – Flash cookies, aka “super cookies,” can be used to track your browsing just like normal browser cookies. But Flash cookies will stick around even if you delete your regular browser cookies, and they can’t normally be viewed. The FlashCookiesView tool shines a light on these out-of-the-way files. The super cookies, known technically as local shared objects or LSOs, do have legit uses, such as saving your preferences for watching Flash videos on a particular site.

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Filed under Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 28, 2011

Antivirus 2011: Digital Defenders – So which paid antivirus program should you pick? That’s where we come in. PCWorld teamed up with AV-Test (, a respected security-software testing lab based in Germany. Together, we looked at 13 paid antivirus products from a number of leading security companies. We provide links here to full reviews of all 13, plus summaries of the reviews’ key points.

Make the Windows Key a good habit in Windows 7 – In this edition of the Windows Desktop Report, Greg Shultz tells you about his favorite Windows Key shortcuts and shows you how to make them habit forming.

Multiple vulnerabilities in Symantec products – Multiple vulnerabilities have been reported in Symantec products, which can be exploited by malicious people to cause a Denial of Service and compromise a vulnerable system, according to Secunia.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Lifehacker: Why Should I Care About HTTPS on Facebook (or Other Web Sites)? – HTTPS is a significantly more secure version of HTTP, which is the protocol you generally use to load up your webpages (whether you’re aware of it or not). HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, so HTTPS stands for the same thing but with Secure on the end of it. This is because, as Wikipedia will tell you , HTTPS is “a combination of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol with the SSL/TLS protocol to provide encrypted communication and secure identification of a network web server.”

Facebook adds secure browsing and social authentication – The “social CAPTCHA” method of authentication that Facebook developed to prevent the Tunisian government to access the accounts of the people whose login credentials they have stolen will become a standard fixture, confirmed Facebook’s Alex Rice.

A FREE Guide to MSConfig in Windows XP / Vista and 7 – This useful troubleshooting tool for windows is available for all to use, yet many do not know it even exists. In this quick guide I explore the various option available. (submitted by Dar)

Company News:


Netflix Hits 20M Subscribers – Netflix has surpassed the 20 million subscriber mark, up from 16.9 million in October, the company announced Wednesday.

External Storage Drive Review: Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex – If you believe that you should go big or go home, then GoFlex is the external storage drive for you. We put the monster drive to the test.

First Look: Google Cloud Print Online Printing Utility – Unlike Apple’s AirPrint which works over Wi-Fi networks and requires special printer drivers, the only catch with Cloud Print is that you have to install Google’s Chrome browser on the computers with printers you want to use.It works over the Net.

AMD Rolls Out a New Catalyst – AMD has just released its Catalyst 11.1 video drivers for both Windows and Linux platforms, as well as the Catalyst 11.1 hotfix driver.

LinkedIn files for IPO – The business networking company has been widely rumored to want to go public; in its SEC filing it discloses that it’s only mildly profitable but growing fast.

Off Topic (Sort of):


The Fast, Fun Guide to Three Microsoft Kinect Hacks – We round up the three simplest ways to show off what Microsoft’s 3D motion-sensing camera can really do–from creating depth-sensing video to making your own motion-controlled games.

5 men busted in relation to Anonymous DDoS attacks – Five men believed to have taken part in recent Anonymous’ DDoS attacks have been arrested this morning during a series of raids coordinated by the Metropolitan Police Service’s Police Central e-Crime Unit.

Virtual Meeting Manners: Seven Sins of Video Conferencing – Video conferencing, web meetings and other telepresence technology is transforming the way companies do business. But just like in-person meetings, there are cultural mores that should be followed. Here’s a list of the top pet peeves among IT decision makers and SMB leadership about participant behavior during video conferences.

Today’s Quote:


Dig where the gold is…unless you just need some exercise.”

John M. Capozzi

Today’s Free Downloads:


Eraser – Eraser is a secure data removal tool for Windows. It completely removes sensitive data from your hard drive by overwriting it several times with carefully selected patterns.

Soluto – Frustrated by how long it takes for Windows to fully load after you’ve logged in? So is just about every other Windows user on the planet. Now you can do something about it. The free Soluto, currently in free beta, does a very nice job of helping you cut that time–in ways that no other program does.

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Filed under Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

Spam Falls To ONLY 33.5 BILLION Spam Emails Daily – January 2011 MessageLabs Intelligence Report

imageIf you haven’t gotten an email lately for a “performance” enhancer like Cialis, or Viagra here’s why –

According to Symantec’s MessageLabs Intelligence Report for January, 2011, pharmaceutical spam recently dropped to 59.1% of all spam – down from it’s all time high of 85% of all spam, back in May 2010. Still, that’s small comfort when you consider that spam currently accounts for 75.7 percent of all email traffic. What a waste of the Internet’s finite resources.

The report points out that “the decline is the result of both a halt in the spam-sending activities of three botnets – Rustock, Lethic and Xarvester – and also unrest among pharmaceutical spam-sending gangs following the closure of pharmaceutical spam affiliate, Spamit”.

This respite however, is likely to be short lived. MessageLabs Intelligence Senior Analyst, Paul Wood pointed out ‘”there are likely other factors at work, such as consolidation and restructuring of pharmaceutical spam operations ……….  we expect to see more pharmaceutical spam in 2011 as new pharmaceutical spam brands emerge and botnets compete for their business.”

A snapshot of the threat landscape over the last month:

Spam: In January 2011, the global ratio of spam in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources was 78.6 percent (1 in 1.3 emails), a decrease of 3.1 percentage points since December.

Viruses: The global ratio of email-borne viruses in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources was one in 364.8 emails (0.274 percent) in January, a decrease of .03 percentage points since December. In January, 65.1 percent of email-borne malware contained links to malicious websites, a decrease of 2.5 percentage points since December.

Endpoint Threats: Threats against endpoint devices such as laptops, PCs and servers may penetrate an organization in a number of ways, including drive-by attacks from compromised websites, Trojan horses and worms that spread by copying themselves to removable drives. Analysis of the most frequently blocked malware for the last month revealed that the Sality.AE virus was the most prevalent. Sality.AE spreads by infecting executable files and attempts to download potentially malicious files from the Internet.

Phishing: In January, phishing activity was 1 in 409.7 emails (0.244 percent), an increase of 0.004 percentage points since December.

Web security: Analysis of web security activity shows that 44.1 percent of malicious domains blocked were new in January, an increase of 7.9 percentage points since December. Additionally, 21.8 percent of all web-based malware blocked was new in January, a decrease of 3.1 percentage points since last month. MessageLabs Intelligence also identified an average of 2,751 new websites per day harboring malware and other potentially unwanted programs such as spyware and adware, a decrease of 21.5 percent since December.

Reading this type of report (or at least the highlights), is certainly educational, and can be a major step in expanding that sense of threat awareness that active Internet users’ require.

The full MLI Report is available here in PDF.

Symantec’s MessageLabs Intelligence is a respected source of data and analysis for messaging security issues, trends and statistics. MessageLabs Intelligence provides a range of information on global security threats based on live data feeds from control towers around the world scanning billions of messages each week.

About Symantec:

Symantec is a global leader in providing security, storage and systems management solutions to help consumers and organizations secure and manage their information-driven world. Our software and services protect against more risks at more points, more completely and efficiently, enabling confidence wherever information is used or stored. More information is available at

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Filed under cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Email, email scams, Internet Security Alerts, MessageLabs, Reports, spam, Symantec, Windows Tips and Tools