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18 Sep 2006

Steve Irwin video tribute designed to collect email addresses

Internet users warned to read the electronic small print

Experts at SophosLabs™, Sophos's global network of virus, spyware and spam analysis centers, have warned of a spam campaign designed to harvest email addresses by attracting readers to websites offering topical "video tributes".

The spam emails lead to sites containing a range of teasers offering video tributes to 9/11 victims, troubled celebrity Anna Nicole Smith and "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin who was killed on 4 September by a giant stingray whilst snorkelling off the Great Barrier Reef.

A teaser is displayed, encouraging visitors to enter their full email address to watch the full tribute

A teaser is displayed, encouraging visitors to enter their full email address to watch the full tribute.

To view the full video, you need to provide your email address - something which seems harmless enough unless you visit the site's privacy policy, accessible via a link at the bottom of the page.

In this policy, the operator of the page reserves the right, amongst other things, "to send you personalized marketing information via electronic delivery", "to send you targeted advertising", and to "sell and/or license the personal information that you provide...to third party businesses," including "providers of direct marketing services and applications".

If you click through to the video, you are given an opportunity to invite five of your friends along to view it too, by providing their email addresses to the site's operator.

The web pages offer tributes related to news events such as 9/11 and the death of Steve Irwin

The web pages offer tributes related to news events such as 9/11 and the death of Steve Irwin.

"The message is simple: don't stitch up your friends by dishing out their email addresses, no matter how keen you think they might be, and always think carefully before giving your email address to any website especially if it has just spammed you. Websites like this are preying on people's interest in news stories like the death of Steve Irwin and the troubled life of Anna Nicole Smith in their attempt to collect email addresses," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "If you really can't resist, then be sure to read the small print. Your personal information is valuable, so be wary of giving companies the right to collect it and then to dispose of it however they want."

Sophos recommends that companies protect their email gateways with a consolidated solution to defend against viruses, spyware and spam, as well as secure their desktop and servers with automatically updated protection.

About Sophos

More than 100 million users in 150 countries rely on Sophos as the best protection against complex threats and data loss. Sophos is committed to providing complete security solutions that are simple to deploy, manage, and use and that deliver the industry's lowest total cost of ownership. Sophos offers award-winning encryption, endpoint security, web, email, mobile and network security solutions backed by SophosLabs - a global network of threat intelligence centers.

Sophos is headquartered in Boston, US and Oxford, UK. More information is available at www.sophos.com.