Users could be induced into spamming all their contacts after a greeting card site decided to apply highly questionable social engineering tricks to its latest marketing campaign.
AV vendor Sophos
reports receiving several calls from users concerned they have received or
sent a virus disguised as a link to a greetings card on FriendGreetings.com.
In fact the email is not viral, but the product of an online marketing initiative run by the e-card company.
Users following the link are invited to install an ActiveX control in order to view their e-card. Two lengthy end user licence agreements (EULAs) are displayed stating that by running the application the user is giving permission for a similar email to be sent to all addresses found in a users's Outlook address book.
The concern is that in many cases, users will not bother to read the EULA and will allow numerous unwanted emails to be sent.
"A flood of unwanted emails can be as much of a problem as a genuine virus. This isn't a virus, or a worm - but it could be considered a real nuisance," said Graham Cluley, senior technical consultant at Sophos.
Security integrator Integralis warns that the guerrilla marketing tactics used by FriendGreetings.com could easily be applied to spread more malicious payloads.
As the message takes the form of an e-card, users do not suspect that clicking onto the link will result in anything untoward occurring, it points out. Since the link is sent by someone a user knows the process could easily to applied to induce more gullible users into loading viral code.
Businesses need to implement policies and technologies to prevent employees from downloading potential malicious content from the Internet, Integralis recommends. A good first step in this process would be to consider barring employee access to FriendGreetings.com, security firms advise. ®
Stats on the spread of the 'greeting card mass mailer' by mail filtering firm MessageLabs. MessageLabs are blocking all emails associated with the program FriendGreetings.com is distributing.
Write up on the issue by AV vendor Sophos