Dec 28, 2011 (07:12 AM EST)
Aggressive Phishing Attack Targets Military Personnel

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The U.S. military received an unwanted present this Christmas holiday season in the form of an "aggressive" phishing attack that's been making the rounds of .mil email accounts, according to the Army.

There are several attacks making the rounds, the most notable coming in the form of an email with the subject line "Deposit Posted" that appears to be from USAA, a financial services company that services members of the military as well as their families and veterans, according to an article on the U.S. Army's website.

The email asks people to open a file infected by Zeus malware that can access people's personal information and even require a complete reinstall of a computer's operating system.

[ The feds are dealing with a lot of technology challenges. Read 5 Lessons From Federal IT Project Reviews. ]

Other attacks have targeted U.S. military installations and defense facilities with emails that appear to come from senior officers or military authority figures. Those emails also request that the recipient download and install software that's depicted as a "critical security measure that must be immediately deployed," according to the Army. But rather than providing security, the software instead is either a Trojan Horse that can destroy systems and networks or data-mining software that can provide hackers with unauthorized access to information behind the firewall.

Phishing is usually an unsolicited email that appears to be coming from a legitimate institution--such as a bank or other financial company--that asks a recipient to give up personal information or download software. The military is asking its members to be cautious when opening any unsolicited email requests to download software or access secure information.

Phishing has consistently been one of the biggest security threats to the U.S. government for a number of years, although the number of actual incidents have been slacking off while other types of attacks have been on the rise, according to the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), which keeps track of U.S. cybersecurity incidents.

Still, the feds should remain wary of these types of attacks, which can wreak havoc if people fall for them. The Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory shut down email and Internet access for more than a week in April after a sophisticated phishing attack that was sent to about 570 email accounts.

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