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SLAMMING SPAM

Besides buttinski bosses, nosy marketers, and not-so-benevolent bureaucracies, the root of many privacy ills comes down to email—or, more accurately, spam. For the last five years, unsolicited email has been the delivery mechanism of choice for virus and worm authors. Tens of millions of PCs have been infected worldwide, spawning an epidemic in networks of zombie PCs and other malware infestations.

Meanwhile, the fastest growing privacy threat is phisher scams, a form of spam that looks remarkably like legitimate email from real organizations but is designed to steal your personal information (see Chapter 3, "Don't Bank on It"). A typical phisher email looks like it comes from your bank and usually directs you to a web site, where you're prompted to enter your name and account information. Once you do, it's game over—you've just handed your information to an international crime ring, who will sell it to others, use it to make purchases in your name, or create false identities that can be used by other criminals (see "The Identity Black Market"). And unlike being mugged or losing your wallet, it can be months or even years before you realize what has happened to you.


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