Author's Opinion

The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of iTWire.

Have your say and comment below.

Thursday, 27 November 2008 06:21

E-gads... AVG warns of 500 million strong e-card threat

E-eek! That nice Christmas e-card could be an e-threat, says AVG, and while the danger of e-cards is theoretically well known, the e-conomic crisis (and e-co climate concerns) is forcing some to consider sending e-cards instead of the real thing. As this means some e-cards you receive could be real, amongst plenty of fakes, caution is re-quired!

Social engineering tricks have seen e-cards being hijacked by online criminals as a way to infect millions with spyware, crimeware, botnets and other e-nasties, with many now treating all e-cards with suspicion.

However, as the threat of dodgy e-cards has waned due to e-cards not recently being used by those nefariously nasty online criminals, the rapid approach of the Christmas and festive season could see some drop their guard and open an e-card that appears to come from a friend or colleague.

That’s the finding of global Internet security firm AVG Technologies, who “found that almost three quarters (74 per cent) of the people it polled said they would automatically open an e-card if it were from a friend or colleague.”

As AVG ominously warns, you must “pick the e-cards you read very carefully” – and while AVG mentions that e-cards may be being sent as a way to save money and be eco-friendly, who knows if those clever online criminals will actually have the brains to frame their e-card messages with an eco-friendly message.

Perhaps something like: “I’ve decided to send you an e-card to cut down on the massive carbon emissions of posting a physical card, so please accept this beautiful e-card in place of a dead tree and wasted oil”. Or some such.

Lloyd Borrett, Marketing Manager of AVG (AU/NZ) said: “Criminals are using this growing medium to deliver viruses and other security threats to the computers of their unsuspecting victims. Because risky e-cards are typically made to look as though they have been sent from a trusted party, usually a friend or relative, they fool the recipient into opening them.”

It is social engineering, after all. Like the TV show said, “you are the weakest link”, and that’s what social engineering targets. You.

AVG says that another three letter organisation, the FBI, has issued formal warnings over the risk of e-cards, because the FBI itself was targeted after fraudulent emails were sent in the name of the FBI’s Deputy Director.

Why do online criminals send out spams and e-cards and other email threats? And what can you do to protect yourself? The answer is on page 2... please read on.

Why are spams and dodgy e-cards, etc, sent out? The answer is simple – because they work to catch people unawares.

AVG’s research points to an estimated 500 million e-cards and greetings being sent online this Christmas, and says that “if only 0.1% of e-greetings sent during this festive period contain a security threat – that’s still tens of thousands of damaged or compromised PCs.”

AVG continues, saying: “This many damaged PCs adds up to a great deal in terms of lost family photos and videos, lost work, and emails. Plus compromised PCs often become distributors of spam or their owners may become the targets of identity theft.”
AVG however says that “The good news is that these internet security threats can be avoided. Experts at AVG Technologies have compiled five tips so that internet users can send and receive e-cards with peace of mind.”

These five tips are as follows:

1. Don't open attachments: Most legitimate e-cards are links to the company's website that allow you to go directly to your card. Avoid attachments and don't download anything from a source you don't recognise.

2. When in doubt, delete: If something looks a little strange or “phishy”, such as the name of the sender or vague subject lines, just delete the card. It's better to do that than run the risk of getting a virus.

3. Know where you’re going online: Use security software that detects and blocks web sites that push online scams, adware installations, attachments filled with viruses and other malicious downloads that could harm your system.

4. Know what to look for: While most e-card scams actually look legitimate, there are usually some tell-tale signs to look for. Watch out for misspelled words or names, not knowing who sent you the card, a disguised name (such as Your Friend, A Secret Admirer, etc.), and an odd web site address.

5. Always read fine print before accepting any terms: Make sure you actually read the fine print before agreeing to anything. Some e-card scams list in their terms that they can send email to everyone in your address book. Make sure you know what you are agreeing to.

AVG takes the opportunity to note that the required “security software” needn’t “cost a cent”, pointing out that its AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition 8.0 comes with AVG’s LinkScanner software to tell you whether a site is dodgy or not, with AVG Free able to be downloaded here.

AVG are obviously also hoping that if you get its free anti-virus, anti-malware, Linkscanner software that you’ll end up buying its full protective suite and use it in place of whatever Internet Security suite you’re likely already using.

Whether you do that is of course up to you, but AVG’s tips are certainly helpful whether you choose to use its technologies or not.

So... have a happy and safe festive season – and watch out for those e-cards, because they might come with an unwelcome present that you weren’t expecting!

Subscribe to ITWIRE UPDATE Newsletter here


The much awaited iTWire Shop is now open to our readers.

Visit the iTWire Shop, a leading destination for stylish accessories, gear & gadgets, lifestyle products and everyday portable office essentials, drones, zoom lenses for smartphones, software and online training.

PLUS Big Brands include: Apple, Lenovo, LG, Samsung, Sennheiser and many more.

Products available for any country.

We hope you enjoy and find value in the much anticipated iTWire Shop.



iTWire TV offers a unique value to the Tech Sector by providing a range of video interviews, news, views and reviews, and also provides the opportunity for vendors to promote your company and your marketing messages.

We work with you to develop the message and conduct the interview or product review in a safe and collaborative way. Unlike other Tech YouTube channels, we create a story around your message and post that on the homepage of ITWire, linking to your message.

In addition, your interview post message can be displayed in up to 7 different post displays on our the site to drive traffic and readers to your video content and downloads. This can be a significant Lead Generation opportunity for your business.

We also provide 3 videos in one recording/sitting if you require so that you have a series of videos to promote to your customers. Your sales team can add your emails to sales collateral and to the footer of their sales and marketing emails.

See the latest in Tech News, Views, Interviews, Reviews, Product Promos and Events. Plus funny videos from our readers and customers.


Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

Share News tips for the iTWire Journalists? Your tip will be anonymous




Guest Opinion

Guest Interviews

Guest Reviews

Guest Research

Guest Research & Case Studies

Channel News