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New emails address you by name, then try to hose your PC

Spear and spell

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Beware of emails that mention you and your company by name and claim to be official communications from the US Department of Justice. They're phony and will attempt to install malware on your machine.

The emails, which claim to reference a complaint recently filed by a business associate, invite the recipient to click on an attachment that contains a nasty Trojan, two separate security firms, MessageLabs and Websense, are reporting.

The practice of trying to extract sensitive information by sending highly personalized emails is generally called spear phishing, and it's proved to be successful in the past.

In May, security researchers from SecureWorks reported that emails purporting to come from the Better Business Bureau duped 1,400 business managers into installing a post logger on their machines. The loggers siphoned sensitive information that passed through the victims' Internet Explorer browser, including social security numbers, account numbers, and data that normally would be securely cloaked behind SSL defenses.

Spear phishing emails are notable for their impeccable grammar and spelling, a characteristic that distinguishes them from many of the plain vanilla phishing scams out there. Other recent spear phishing campaigns have masqueraded as emails from the Federal Trade Commission.

According to Websense, none of the major anti-virus companies detect the Trojan included in the fake Justice Department emails. That's likely to change in the next 24 hours, if it hasn't already. ®

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