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Graham Davies

Problems with holiday emails

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It’s the holiday season again! How can I tell? My mailbox is constantly being bombarded by:

1. Out-of-office replies to messages. These often include dates – which means that if I were a dishonest individual I could look up the sender’s name in the online BT phonebook, having worked out roughly where they might live from the email address of their institution, and then send someone round to burgle their house while they are away. Far-fetched? No, it’s quite common these days. In fact, there is an increasing number of documented cases of such occurrences.

2. Automatic “returned mail” or “rejected mail” replies to emails containing virus attachments that I have supposedly transmitted. This is because many educational establishments have not caught up with the fact that modern viruses conceal the real sender’s email address and spoof a sender’s address – which is usually lifted from the address book of the person whose computer is infected with the virus. There is therefore no point in replying to an email address from which a virus appears to have been sent. It’s high time that educational establishments stopped using these stupid automatic reply programs. It always gets worse during the holiday period, as the ICT managers are often not around to exercise manual control over such programs. I’ve received around 400 “returned mail” and “rejected mail” messages in the last four days – so I’ve now set my filtering system to delete them automatically.

3. Viruses emanating from laptops that teachers have taken home from their educational institutions – which has already been mentioned elsewhere in this forum. The laptops are often poorly equipped with anti-virus software and firewalls – or maybe they have such software but it is not set up properly to retrieve updates from the Web automatically. I can’t pinpoint individual culprits, but I can tell from the nature of the spoofed addresses that the infected computer probably belongs to a school or university.

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