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'Postal Service' e-mail delivers computer virus

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Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2010

E-mails claiming to be from the post office contain a virus, and computer experts from Carnegie Mellon University and others are trying to contain the bug.

The advice from a postal inspector is to not open the e-mail or its attachment, and don't forward it to the U.S. Postal Service, FBI or police to get them to investigate.

"We already know this is out there," said Postal Service Inspector Andrew Richards.

The e-mails have resurfaced in the Pittsburgh area this week.

The Postal Service doesn't send e-mails to customers, according to Richards. It normally contacts people through letters delivered in the mail, he said.

The bogus Postal Service e-mail tells people who read it that a package couldn't be delivered.

It asks them to click on the e-mail link to see the label.

Doing so opens an attachment, said Ed Schlesinger, chairman of CMU's Electrical and Computer Engineering Department.

The attachment launches malicious software known as a computer virus.

"The virus gets into their computer before they know it's a virus," he said.

The virus can track key strokes and give the intruder access to financial or other private information, he said.

"Don't open an e-mail that claims to be from the Postal Service," Richards said. "And if you open the e-mail by accident, make sure you don't open the attachment."

If you don't know the sender, don't open up an e-mail, Schlesinger said.

Richards said CMU and other universities are looking for a way to defeat the virus.

While it's unclear where the bug originated, the intent of the virus is to harm individual computers.

Postal Service spokesman Tad Kelley said the office is telling its employees and contractors to be careful about opening unsolicited e-mail.

"People should always be way of any e-mail and be careful what they open up. Unfortunately, this is not the first e-mail that purports to be from the Postal Service and it's not," he said.

Additional Information:

Postal Service warning

To learn more about dangerous e-mail viruses, go to the Postal Inspector Web site and click on the scheme alert info. People can also telephone the Postal Service at 1-800-ASK-USPS.

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