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I look at a recent rash of spam / malware claiming that your favorite celebrities have died.

In recent days there's been a flurry of emails with the subject "[some celebrity name] died".

Each message has a different celebrity name, and each includes an attachment to find out more information.

Right.

Sadly people believe or want to believe this stuff.

And therein lies the problem.

Someone died

A recent set of someone died spam

That's an image of the emails as filtered by GMail in to a spam folder.

Good on GMail.

However, I'm hearing reports of people without good spam filters receiving dozens of these messages, each referencing a different celebrity.

If they're all dying then at that rate we're about to face a severe celebrity shortage.

Here's the body of the message:

[celebrity name] died along with 34 other people when the Air Force CT-43 "Bobcat" passenger plane carrying the group on a trip crashed into a mountainside while approaching the Dubrovnik airport in Croatia during heavy rain and poor visibility.

Please see attachment

What's funny, of course, is that the celebrity name in the subject line never seems to match the celebrity name in the body. Whoops. Sounds like a bug in the spam-generating program. (Though the English, while not perfect, is above average for spam.)

That's exactly what this is, by the way: an automated program - perhaps a botnet - that's sending out massive amounts of this particular message, varying the names to try and get your attention and interest. The goal is to get you curious enough to open the attachment.

Open that attachment and your machine is infected with a virus, plain and simple.

To be extra clear: don't do it!

Delete the mail. Ignore the mail. Don't open the attachment.

If you want to check up on your favorite celebrities, go visit a legitimate news site instead.

Article C4410 - August 21, 2010 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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4 Comments
Art Yaffe
August 21, 2010 11:34 AM

Cheese! Why don't I get any of these juicy emails?

Duane Ferguson
August 22, 2010 4:16 AM

Either the spammers are getting smarter, or the rest of us are getting dumber-er.

Ken B
August 23, 2010 7:44 AM

I think it's a combination of spammers getting "smarter" in the sense that the keep coming up with new ways to beat the filters. And, unfortunately, there will always be enough people who are dumb enough to fall for it.

I happened to write a quick note about the same thing on my blog a few days ago.

http://blog.runonfriday.com/2010/08/bad-day-for-celebrities/

Bob
August 31, 2010 4:44 AM

With regard to the 'gullibility' of people in general, I'd like to use a quote from the Darwin Awards.
"While the population of the world is ever increasing, the sum total of it's IQ remains constant"

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