With the holiday season upon us, spam campaigns of a malicious nature will start springing up bearing yuletide greetings.
Just Yesterday, Websense sent out an alert that malicious software authors already are using social engineering techniques with a Christmas theme to compromise your home machine. The instance they are reporting uses spam e-mails offering free animated postcards.
Those unfortunate enough to attempt to get free e-cards will download a Trojan. The spam e-mails are spoofed to appear as if they come from postcard.org. The fact that malware (postcard.exe) is being installed on a machine is covered up with a xmas.jpg image.
Websense was kind enough to provide a screen shot of this particular attack:
This type of attack is nothing new and seems to surface every year at this time. The next step in these campaigns normally are more personalized spam e-mails designed to do the same thing (download malware). Please note these e-mails are normally spoofed to appear as if they come from a legitimate e-card retailer.
Last year, American Greetings put up a page on their site to educate people how to spot and avoid falling victim to this type of attack. First and foremost, they recommend that if you are suspicious at all to go to the company site and try to pick up the greeting from there. Most (if not all) of the legitimate sites offer this service. The page on their site contains additional ways to identify "e-card garbage" and is well worth a look if you are unfamiliar with how to spot malware attacks using spam e-mails.
American Greeting put up this page after an attack on their brand. In this attack, some of the e-mails appeared to come from a known (trusted) person. My guess is this happened from an already compromised machine, where a spammer gained access to an address book and sent the e-mails out. Some forms of malware do this without any human interface.
I went to the Postcards.org site and thus far they have no warnings about this that I could find.
While the best thing to do is to avoid clicking on spam e-mail containing malware, the second best thing is to employ solid anti-virus software and a firewall from a reputable vendor like Websense, Sunbelt, or Symantec. Most of these vendors are on top of malware being issued in the wild (on the Internet) and they even share information with each other.