Home' Australian Pharmacist : Australian Pharmacist August 2015 Contents Australian Pharmacist August 2015 I © Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Ltd.
Like many other businesses, my pharmacy deals daily with more and
The increased volume, along with the
pressures of daily pharmacy life means it
can be easy to overlook an email with a
potentially dangerous attachment. In fact
recently, my pharmacy was caught with
its pants down – all due to an open zip.
Lots of zips
Along with hundreds of useful and
relevant business emails, you’ve probably
also received multiple unsolicited
emails offering you millions of dollars
of inheritance, free goods, requests to
purchase blood pressure machines,
blood glucose strips, or simply with
unusual attachments. Most of the time
these are easy to spot and delete.
Trip up zips
Why do these emails exist, and what
are they trying to achieve? The reasons
range from the harmless (spam) to the
very severe and destructive (malware).
Most that are harmless are either
trying to get a response, or prove that
your email address is active, and then
potentially add that address to a mailing
list – or worse still, sell your email
address to anyone who wants to buy
lists of live email addresses.
The emails of medium severity lure you
into opening an attachment that installs
a small program on your computer,
which then sets off doing its nasty work.
Usually this is something like using your
computer as a means to email more
spam emails around, which then keeps
on perpetuating the nuisance even
further. Sometimes the more dangerous
programs can just sit and wait for you to
log into your internet banking (phishing),
or use other username and password
combinations and then transmit those
details back to the perpetrator’s base.
In the most severe cases, it can start
deleting files on your hard drive, or lock
up your computer and ask you to pay a
In the case of my pharmacy, the offending
email looked like it was from a pharmacy
that we knew and had an attachment that
looked like an invoice. It didn’t take much
to click on the attachment, and when
nothing happened, it all seemed pretty
innocuous. It was only a few days later
that we discovered we were sending
hundreds of emails out to people we
knew (including our customers) and also
to people we had never heard of. We had
been the successful target of email
malware. Mind you, so had many before
us that had done the same!
Undo the zip
The first reaction when you discover
something like this should be to
disconnect that computer from the
network, thereby isolating it from other
computers and cutting its lifeline to the
internet. Practically, it is often not that
easy as it is more than likely a computer
that you need to keep the pharmacy
operating, but you need to weigh up the
risk of the damage it may create with
Weigh up the zip
The next big decision is whether to
invest the time in trying to remove the
problem from that computer, or start
all over again by either re-formatting
Jason Bratuskins is a practising community pharmacy
proprietor with an enthusiastic interest in the
application of IT to day-to-day pharmacy. He also
works in the pharmacy IT industry on a number of
cutting-edge eHealth projects for Fred IT Group.
He can be contacted via email at: cyberpharm@
or buying a brand new computer.
From experience, starting all over again
is the safest and also brings you the
benefit of a new installation of Windows
that often leads to things running faster.
If you want to attempt to clean up the
computer, immediately update your
anti-virus software with the latest pattern
updates, and download one of the many
free malware programs from the internet
before you disconnect from the network.
As you’ll never really know if you’ve
cleaned out the problem entirely, a fresh
start makes the most sense.
There are some basic and hopefully
obvious rules with email, both for your
personal email and your pharmacy email.
If an email looks outrageous, it probably
is – and delete straight away. If an email
is from someone you don’t know and is
requesting information that seems slightly
strange – delete straight away. Some other
danger signs include spelling mistakes,
and links to sites that have nothing to do
with the email itself. The way to spot this is
to roll your mouse over a link or an image
in the email (without clicking on it), and it
should show the destination address.
If in doubt – just delete it. If it really was
important then the sender will more than
likely chase you up again. Better that than
to be caught with your pants down.
Avoid the embarrassment
of an open zip
BY JASON BRATUSKINS
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