More ‘news’ spam not detected by Outlook

Office for Mere Mortals helps people around the world get more from Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. Delivered once a week. free.

More fake news emails from ‘CNN’ and now ‘MSNBC’ aren’t picked up by Outlook.

Once a spammer or phishing baddie finds a way to bypass common spam filters they or copy-cats will quickly take advantage with similar messages.

After the ‘successful’ message pretending to be from CNN and their ‘Daily Top 10’ service there followed a variant ‘from’ the ‘CNN Custom Alert’ service.

It was quite predicable that we’d see a phishing message using the popular ‘CNN Breaking News’ email as the trap. The phishing message is quite similar in format with a fake (non-CNN related) sender:

Outlook 2007 - fake CNN breaking news message.jpg image from More

(we’ve removed the ‘to’ and ‘from’ email addresses for privacy reasons, even though they are almost certainly fake). The links to the ‘news’ story lead to non-CNN sites as you can see in the above example.

Luckily for those of us making Outlook rules to handle these pests, Office Watch has subscribed to the real CNN Breaking News email for many years. That lets us create a rule which detects the fake messages and leaves the real ones alone.

Outlook 2007 - real CNN breaking news message.jpg image from More

Based on that we can make a rule using the subject line of the phishing message (“CNN Alerts: Breaking news”)which, at least for the moment, is different from the real CNN message.

Outlook 2007 - fake CNN breaking news rule.jpg image from More

Of course that only works for the moment, doubtless we’ll see more variations on the fake news emails for a while yet. Sadly the August release of Microsoft security updates has passed without an update to the junk email filter (the most recent one is July 2008).


The phishers are applying a similar tactic with the unwanted messages appearing to come from MSNBC.

Outlook 2007 - fake MSNBC message.jpg image from More

It’s the same scam; appearing to be from a known TV news network and some of the links pointing to the real web site. But the important link to the ‘news’ story goes somewhere quite different and potentially dangerous.

So we’ve seen CNN and now MSNBC fake emails, presumably BBC, Fox News, Al Jazeera et al will be faked in the coming weeks and months.

Want More?

Office Watch has the latest news and tips about Microsoft Office. Independent since 1996. Delivered once a week.