Stay on top of the latest tech news with our free IT News Digest newsletter, delivered each weekday.
Automatically sign up today!


Matt Hines

Staff Writer, CNET

The FBI is warning the public about malicious e-mails designed to appear as if they were generated by the law enforcement agency.

In a statement released late Tuesday, the FBI detailed the threat, which attempts to lure e-mail users into opening an attachment containing a computer virus.

The mail is disguised as correspondence warning people that their Internet use has been monitored by the FBI’s Internet Fraud Complaint Center and that they have “accessed illegal Web sites.” The e-mails then direct recipients to open the virus-laden attachment to answer a series of questions.

The FBI said it is currently investigating the origin of the malicious e-mail and indicated that it would never send unsolicited messages to the public. The agency further warned people against opening any e-mail attachment sent to them from an unknown sender.

Spoofing, or the practice of sending unsolicited e-mail meant to appear as if it were generated by a reliable or known source, is a problem that continues to plague everyone from the world’s largest financial services companies to government agencies to individual e-mail users. The issue has gained renewed attention as the number of spoofing campaigns linked to identity theft scams–also known as phishing attacks–has increased significantly in recent years.

The FBI has been dealing other tech-related problems recently. Earlier this month, in an audit of the agency’s computing infrastructure, Justice Department officials said that the FBI has failed to adequately address problems identified after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Much of the criticism centered on the FBI’s inability to install its Virtual Case File system, software meant to improve the manner in which FBI workers share information.

Reuters contributed to this report.