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Hackers tried to trick users into visiting a maliciously-constructed website using a blizzard of spam emails last week. The assault attempted to exploit a previously unknown vulnerability with Internet Explorer to seize control of the maximum number of Windows PCs.

The malicious emails - normally a fake order confirmation for an IBM Laptop PC - told the recipient that their bank account has been debited for £1,099.99 and provides a link to check or cancel the order. Following the link lead to a Web server that exploits an as yet unpatched IE vulnerability to deposit a Trojan on a user's PC. Two Reg readers have contacted us after receiving this email attack and we've received the malicious email ourselves over the last week. The messages purported to come from a company called SunLight Electronics.

According to security consultancy SecureTest, which investigated the issue after one of its customers received the bogus email last Friday, Microsoft is yet to release a fix for the vulnerability exploited by the fake emails. Users needed to rely on AV software for protection so it's just as well the bogus site has now been pulled.

Recent worms such as Waloon have attempted to trick users into downloading malicious code rather than opening an infectious attachment. The fake order aspect of the ruse and the use of a day zero (unpatched) nature of the vulnerability exploited make last week's attack even more pernicious.

SecureTest MD Ken Munro said many people receiving the bogus email would have been tempted to take a closer look. "Thanks to the press, most people are now aware that emails purporting to be from a bank and asking for there online details are a 'phishing' fraud. However many people, on receiving an email saying their bank account has been debited for £1,099.99 will at least click on the link and take a further look," he said.

"More than anything people should be wary of the format for the scam rather than the specific files. As with all security threats it is likely this will evolve and it may end up being used for a variety of criminal purposes." ®

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