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Beware of that secret admirer

Love may be all around you, but there is something to be cautious about.

india Updated: Feb 10, 2006 16:45 IST

Love may be all around you at this time of the season, but think twice before opening that Valentine's Day card promising sweet nothings from a 'secret admirer' in your email.

It may be something unpleasant - a virus, spam or spyware, cyber experts warn.

Unsolicited Valentine cards from a 'secret admirer' may infect the computers with a nasty surprise from a cyber scam artist, according to a Purdue University computer security expert.

"An email or instant message from a 'secret admirer' on Valentine's Day may be specifically designed to pique your curiosity," says Michael Carr, Purdue's chief information security officer.

"It's human nature and exactly what the bad guy is counting on.

An important element of cyber deception is the victim's willingness to "click here" or "open the attached file."

Too often, the surprise is an email virus, Trojan horse, spam, or so-called phishing scam - an email that appears legitimate but is designed to trick people into providing valuable personal-information passwords or bank account and credit card account numbers.

Carr recommends practicing "safe computing" by:

- Not clicking on links or attachments unless they are part of an expected email or instant message from a reliable, known source.

- Protecting your computer with current anti-virus software and manufacturer-recommended system patches.

- Checking the authenticity of a questionable message by contacting the sender via telephone or another messaging technique.

"If you continue to have doubts about the email or instant message, just delete the message," Carr says. "It is not worth the risk of being a victim."

Anti-virus company Symantec says millions of electronic communications will be sent between lovers - or would be lovers - on Valentine's Day.

However, spokeswoman Simone Milne says the high traffic levels open the way for malicious software such as computer viruses or spyware to be sent.

Milne says people should think twice before opening an unknown "I Love You" message and should make sure that their anti-virus software is kept up to date.

She says if you're thinking of sending an e-card, make sure you go to a reputable company that guarantees a virus-free experience.

First Published: Feb 10, 2006 16:19 IST