Dodgy worm in Christmas spam

For anyone who has ever read this column or any of my blogs, or indeed had the misfortune of meeting me in person, the fact that I am about to have a rant about Christmas in November should come as no surprise.

Not only are the retailers bombarding us with Christmas overload, but now the spammers are at it too.

I have no problem with all things festive during the festive season, which is next month - preferably kicking off on December 23 and coming to a gentle close on Boxing Day. But sadly, I know it will last for the entire month, and this month. In fact, for many retailers it actually began last month and the only thing keeping them from beating us poor saps into submission with a tinsel-encrusted Christmas tree was the desire to push us all into buying into the only "holiday" more stupidly commercial than Valentine's Day: Halloween. Because we have to get buying pumpkins and slutty witch costumes out of the way before we start pondering singing Santas, gaudy wrapping paper and whatever the latest must-have toy is.

One of the good things about not being in the best of health is that I don't actually go shopping often, so at the weekend it was with trepidation I ventured into a department store that shall remain nameless, expecting to find the usual assault on the senses that has assailed me every year I've ventured into the same store any time after October 1.

Imagine my surprise when I found it wasn't actually too bad. Sure, there was a Christmas grotto section packed with all the festive delights, but the rest of the store was pretty much unadulterated.

I don't know why the store wasn't bedecked with all things tacky as in previous years - perhaps it was an acknowledgement that many shoppers are feeling the pinch during the global financial crisis - but it was a pleasant surprise.

But I digress, back to the spammers. Security gurus at Symantec, the company behind the Norton stable of software, say they have observed spammers using "a legitimate look and feel in their email headers and flash animations that include a message to open the "Christmas" attachment".

Don't do it: After opening the attachment, which Symantec detects as W32/AutoRun. BBC!worm, some dodgy code will be downloaded on to your system. And no one wants worms for Christmas, digital or otherwise.

Spammers are also promoting fake offers that encourage users to buy the products early to take advantage of the bogus offers. Clicking the URL directs the user to a fake product offer site.

Symantec says it expects a sharp spike in Christmas-related spam during the coming weeks, so be careful out there and beware of geeks bearing gifts.