New Drive-By Spam Infects Those Who Open Email — No Attachment Needed

Getting infected just got a whole lot easier, researchers say

By Tim Wilson
Attackers have developed a new way to infect your PC through email — without forcing you to click on an attachment.

According to researchers at eleven, a German security firm, the new drive-by spam automatically downloads malware when an email is opened in the email client. The user doesn’t have to click on a link or open an attachment — just opening the email is enough.

“The new generation of email-borne malware consists of HTML e-mails which contain a JavaScript which automatically downloads malware when the email is opened,” eleven says in a news release.”This is similar to so-called drive-by downloads, which infect a PC by opening an infected website in the browser.”

The current wave of drive-by spam contains the subject “Banking security update” and has a sender address with the domain fdic.com. If the email client allows HTML emails to be displayed, the HTML code is immediately activated.

The user only sees the note “Loading…Please wait,” eleven says. In the meantime, the attempt is made to scan the PC and download malware.

Aside from updating their anti-spam and anti-malware tools, users can fight the new attack by deactivating the display of HTML e-mails in their email client, eleven advises. They can choose the option of displaying emails in pure-text format only.

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