The Evil Unsubscribe

We are all getting pretty good at picking out SPAM email messages: the Nigerian family with money, the preapproved Visa card, the lottery winner notification, the phony bank email, the fix your PayPal account message, the disaster relief scam, the family member stuck overseas and needs a wire fast, the invoice from UPS/FEDEX, and the account cancelled scam, just to name a few.

One important thing to remember: ANYTHING you click on in the wrong email is a potential way to get infected with malware!

Keep this in mind when the “friendly” email gives you a link to “unsubscribe”.  This link is just as nefarious as any other; moreover, the last thing it will do is actually unsubscribe you.  Instead, it will probably install malware and validate your email address to the sender.

The best thing to do is delete the entire message.

ANYTHING?  Yes, because the link that you click is actually something called hypertext markup language, or HTML. This language specifies something to display and an URL to go to when clicked, but they don’t have to be the same thing.  For instance, if you click http://www.cnn.com, it will take you to Fox News instead (go ahead and try – it will open a new window).  That’s because I coded the link to go to Fox News.  Coders can use this as a way to trick you.  Not all links are bad; you just have to use your good judgment.

If you hover your mouse pointer over the link above, it will even say “http://www.cnn.com” but if you notice, while hovering, in the bottom left hand corner of most browsers, it will show you the actual link that will open up.  If the words and the link don’t match – be suspicious.  If the URL is something that looks like gibberish, be especially cautious.

You should also watch out for misspelled domain names.  Bad guys will take a popular domain name, and purchase variants that include common misspellings or other forgery methods, like using the number “one” in place of the lower case letter “L”.  In most typefaces, the 1 and l look exactly the same, or similar enough to fool the eye.

Be Careful out there!