Cyber-security officials in Britain issued an unusually dire alert yesterday, warning that hackers are targeting e-mail-borne viruses against government agencies and high-profile British corporations with the aim of stealing sensitive and lucrative data.
The increasingly sophisticated attacks appear to be custom-made for each target, focusing specifically on people who work with commercially or economically sensitive data, according to a document released yesterday by Britain's National Infrastructure Security Coordination Centre.
The attackers write the e-mails so that they appear to originate from trusted contacts, news agencies or government departments, using distribution lists to target large numbers of recipients with similar interests, the report said.
The NISCC said it was releasing the information in the hope that companies and government computer users would be more vigilant about opening attached documents and Web links that arrive via e-mail.
The links and attachments attempt to download a "Trojan horse" program that lets hackers control unsecured computers.
"We have never seen anything like this in terms of the industrial scale of this series of attacks. This is not a few hackers sitting in their bedroom trying to steal bank account details from individuals," NISCC Director Roger Cumming told the Associated Press.
Krebs is a reporter for washingtonpost.com.