Swine Flu: Pigs fly into our inboxes

Jennifer Scott

COMMENT: This week's global panic is Swine Flu. That's right, forget the sneezing birds and the mad cows, a new animal pandemic is set to go global, but not before it infects our inboxes.

I guess you can tell by my introduction I am not as worried as some arms of the media would have me be. Don't get me wrong, when it starts to turn into a scene from 28 days later, I will be locking the doors and hiding under the duvet just like everyone else.

But having suffered from a chest infection for a week or two I am starting to get annoyed with everyone flinching, or actually moving seats away from me (yes, this happened) the moment I let out a small cough on the tube, the new breeding ground for the piggy flu if we are to believe some of the papers.

Until we get more test results through, maybe we should all be taking chill pills instead of Tamiflu, but one thing your GP cannot prescribe for is an inbox invasion.

Unfortunately, those internet spammers know how to play on a bit of paranoia and are now flooding us with emails under the guise of current events information or advice regarding the illness.

McAfee Advert Labs reckons a spam campaign, including email subjects like "Salma Hayek caught Swine flu!" or "Swine flu in Hollywood!" has taken up nearly two per cent of all global spam sent. According to McAfee, this is the first time a single campaign has reached such a number.

Now, it could be argued that this is a suitable punishment for those who obsess about the cult of celebrity too much, but some of these emails are posing as news and information and anyone - even a cynic like me - can understand why anxious people would want to open the mails and find out more.

Symantec has also announced on its blog that Malware writers are "jumping on the swine flu bandwagon" and circulating a fake "FAQ of Swine Flu" PDF.

Now I could rant about the annoyance, anger and infuriation that Malware writers and spammers fill me with but whatever I say here about them will not stop them. They will always continue to use underhand tactics to infect our computers and spam us to within an inch of insanity. However I can offer you some valid advice.

Firstly, please keep your anti-virus software up to date. Symantec compared this simple but important task to washing your hands it is routine and should be done regularly!

Secondly, if you feel you need information about the flu contact your doctors, NHS direct or listen to accredited news programmes.

Be rational. Why would a stranger whose email address you don't recognise be sending you information on a possible pandemic? And when it comes to the celebrity gossip front, we promise you, we will let you know if Madonna, Britney et al contracts the virus.

Jennifer Scott

Jennifer Scott is a former freelance journalist and currently political reporter for Sky News. She has a varied writing history, having started her career at Dennis Publishing, working in various roles across its business technology titles, including ITPro. Jennifer has specialised in a number of areas over the years and has produced a wealth of content for ITPro, focusing largely on data storage, networking, cloud computing, and telecommunications.

Most recently Jennifer has turned her skills to the political sphere and broadcast journalism, where she has worked for the BBC as a political reporter, before moving to Sky News.