JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The scam confirmed by Google on Wednesday, where creators apparently targeted the company's G-Mail account holders, is reportedly contained. For some account holders, the problem is just beginning, because their accounts - and possibly their computers' entire operating systems - might be compromised.
"An email was sent out to people that didn't expect it," said Senior Information Technologies Security Analyst Jeff Gouge at University of North Florida on Thursday. "That basically said 'You have a new Google document'."
Making the worm email all the more stealthy, it was designed to indicate that the document had been suggested by a known source, such as a personal friend.
"In the end, what it was trying to do was take over your email, so that [the hackers] could use it to spread the virus," Gouge continued.
Gouge said viruses are constantly being written, sometimes only to glorify the ego of their creators. Often, it's created to steal personal information for later sale, or steal passwords, which creates an even greater vulnerability. The strategy, says Gouge, is to make you click before you think.
His counter-strategy is simple, if sweeping.
"Don't click links in an email," he summarized. "If it's an email from your bank, and it says 'Click this link to see your statement,' instead of doing that, just open up a new tab or browser, and just go to your favorites, go type it in yourself."
As soon as you click, you're often already compromised, he said. If so, Gouge recommends three steps:
1) Change your password
2) Notify the vendor (e.g. Google) and follow instructions from that vendor
3) Re-install your operating system (e.g. Windows or Macintosh)
The problem with re-installing is that you might lose plenty of wanted, but unsaved data in the process.
"Backing up to a Cloud of some kind, backing up to another device or another computer," Gouge said is the best way to retain most or all wanted data ahead of any compromise.
In the instance of the "Google Docs" hack, Gouge says Google has reportedly fixed the leak, but he warns that because of the constant threat posed by hackers, taking the aforementioned steps can help you protect your privacy and finances.