By: Randy Johnston, Shareholder, K2 Enterprises
Blog Series: Avoiding Infection—Email & Media Risks (Post 3 of 4)
1) Protect Outlook® properly: Outlook has improved its virus protection and spam filtering with each version, but there are still fundamental features to consider and use:
a) Turn off the reading pane for the Inbox. This is not as great a threat as it once was, but the reading pane can still be exploited for virus infections.
b) Disable links for messages in the Junk Email Folder (Outlook). This should disable attachments too
2) Do not open emails that are not recognized: or any file that may have questionable business content, especially if the email has hyperlinks or attachments. If you are not expecting correspondence or are suspicious of the content, it is perfectly acceptable to ask the sender if the message was from them. Be exceptionally cautious with email from unknown sources. Spammers frequently create spoofed (“fake”) emails from Intuit, Bank of America, and Citibank.
a) Malicious email authors are very clever nowadays and often include spoofed senders (senders pretending to be someone they are not), content that seems to come from valid business senders, and my current personal favorite, emails “spoofed” from Intuit that contain a QuickBooks update that needs to be installed NOW to correct a program problem or improve performance. These emails have hyperlinks to an external virus payload and ZIP attachments that contain executable files, which are email worms or Trojans—in other words programs that hide and attach themselves to your systems causing infections. These emails actually contain images from Intuit’s website and appear very legitimate. We need users to ask themselves, did I contact Intuit support and speak with someone about a specific problem requiring an update? Should I be receiving unsolicited email notices from Intuit about updates if that process is managed by my IT Support team? Staff members need to regularly communicate with their IT Support team or the senders before opening questionable emails or files.
b) Even more recently, we have seen spoofed emails sent from Citibank containing valid images from Citibank’s website, which linked to external virus code and included ZIP attachments of executable files, masquerading as PDF (payroll) files, but were actually executable files with subject line “Payroll processing received,” and the body contained instructions to open the attached PDF file in order to verify the amounts of each employee’s payroll amounts. Needless to say, these emails were not sent to the Controller, nor were they actually requested by anyone. However, these worms were opened because staff thought they might actually get a peek at what others in the company were getting paid. If they would have paused before opening the attachment or links and asked themselves, did I contact Citibank for payroll information, or am I actually running payroll thru Citibank, then they would recognize they received a new worm email variant that their Antivirus was not protecting them from, and the worm would not have been unleashed.
Randolph P. (Randy) Johnston, MCS has been a top rated speaker in the technology industry for over 30 years. He was inducted into the Accounting Hall of Fame in 2011. He was selected as a Top 25 Thought Leader in Accounting from 2011-2014. His influence throughout the accounting industry is highlighted once again this year by being a recipient of the 2013 Accounting Today Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting award for the tenth consecutive year. Among his many other awards he holds the honor of being one of nine technology stars in the U.S. by Accounting Technology Magazine. Randy writes a monthly column for The CPA Practice Advisor, articles for the Journal of Accountancy, and creates articles for both accounting and technology publications, as well as being the author of numerous books. He has started and owns multiple businesses including K2 Enterprises in Hammond, Louisiana and Network Management Group, Inc. in Hutchinson, Kansas. In 2010, NMGI announced their national support of CPA firms. His wife and four children enjoy many experiences together including theatre, music, travel, golf, skiing, snorkeling and model trains. His experience as a college instructor, management and technology consultant, and advisor to the industry will be obvious to you in today’s presentation.