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Florida lawyers victimized by spam attack

The Florida Bar is warning members: Be careful when opening email that looks like it came from us.

A handful of attorneys have recently reported “spam emails containing malicious malware” infecting their computers, according to a Bar alert sent to the state’s lawyers on Tuesday.

The subject lines of the emails, which were sent from “@flabar.org” addresses, claimed that membership fees were past due or that the receiving attorney had a complaint filed against him or her.

The organization regulates more than 100,000 members licensed to practice law in the Sunshine State. It confirmed that its own computer system “has not been compromised.”

“Attorneys, like many business professionals, are particularly attractive targets for cyberattack, given the sensitive client information they often store,” the Bar said. “The Florida Bar remains vigilant in keeping our members aware that their emails may be used for malicious purposes, and urges caution and common sense before opening suspicious emails.”

The emails have been reported to the FBI for investigation, a spokeswoman said.

Attorneys who “are in any doubt about the validity of a communication that appears to come from The Florida Bar … should contact us by calling 1-800-342-8060 or 1-850-561-5600,” the Bar said.

Meantime, the Bar is circulating a tip sheet for online safety:

Don’t immediately open email attachments or click on links in unsolicited or suspicious-looking emails. Think before you click! Instead of clicking on a link in an email, type the URL of a trusted site directly into your browser. Criminals send emails that appear to be from companies you know and trust. The links may look legitimate, but clicking on them could download malware or send you to a scam site. Either ignore unsolicited requests to open attachments or files or independently verify that the supposed source did send the email to you (by using a published email address or telephone number). Even if the attachment is from someone you know, consider if you really need to open the attachment, especially if the email looks suspicious.

Install good anti-virus software that periodically runs to search for and remove malware. Make sure to set the software to update automatically and scan for the latest malware.

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Be diligent about using spam (junk mail) filters provided by your email provider. These services help block mass emails that might contain malware from reaching your email inbox.

Don’t visit untrusted websites and don’t believe everything you read. Criminals might create fake websites and pop-ups with enticing messages intended to draw you in and download malware. Anyone can publish information online, so before accepting a statement as fact or taking action, verify that the source is reliable. And please, don’t click on a link to learn more. If something sounds too good to be true, then most likely it’s fraudulent or harmful.

Be careful if anyone — even a well-intentioned friend or family member — gives you a disk or thumb drive to insert in your computer. It could have hidden malware on it. Don’t access a disk or thumb drive without first scanning it with your security software. If you are still unsure, don’t take a chance.

5:30 p.m. update: Arek Sarkissian of the Naples Daily News reports on his blog that he was emailed “about threats the group Anonymous made against Gov. Rick Scott:

Mr. Sarkissian,

There will be another video released sometime within the next 24 hours. This video will present true evidence of Governor Rick Scott allowing a Resigned Judge to over see (sic) cases.

Sincerely
Anonymous

Anonymous is the name of an international hacker collective that uses “online attacks as a form of nonviolent protest,” according to InformationWeek. Its members have targeted the Church of Scientology and the Islamic State militant and terror group.

Sarkissian writes:

The group posted a video Monday calling out Scott for pushing polluted freshwater from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers. They also accused the governor of overstepping his boundaries by forcing a judge to resign and corrupting the state’s legal industry, which is policed by the Florida Bar.

Anonymous hasn’t yet posted a video but the Bar announced today that a smattering of malicious emails was sent to its servers throughout Tuesday.

Wednesday update: Sarkissian tweets, “Anonymous tells me they aren’t messing with the Florida Bar’s emails.”

Written By

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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