The undead are rising from their graves—or at least a legion of long-forgotten AOL email addresses are.
Folks have been complaining about a flood of spam email flowing out from a sea of AOL email addresses over the past several days, with tales of angst being chronicled under the #aolhacked hashtag on Twitter. People are not pleased, to put it mildly.
My wife & I were very early Internet users, new thing called "AOL" - & now #AOLhacked regardless of password changes - losing users now.— Tom Bittman (@tombitt) April 22, 2014
But the emails may not have been hacked, from a technical standpoint. The @aolmailhelp Twitter account has been working overtime to point disgruntled people towards a FAQ about email spoofing.
Spoofed emails don't actually originate from the email address in question, nor do they ever touch AOL's own mail servers—they're just crafted to look as though they're coming from AOL email addresses. That means that if you've been the victim of a spoofed spam attack, simply changing your password will do nothing to stop the headache for your contacts.
However, some users are reporting that the emails are specifically targeting their AOL address book contacts, which suggests the accounts may have indeed been hacked in some way.
#AOLhacked in a major way! Three rounds of emails have gone out to all of my contacts! Please get it fixed!— Julie Whitney (@BestCincyPRPro) April 21, 2014
For what it's worth, AOL says it's on the case, and sources inside AOL tell (AOL-owned) TechCrunch that less than 1 percent of accounts have been affected by the issue. If you think your account has been compromised, AOL wants to hear from you.
Until the zombie horde is successfully beaten back, be sure to give any incoming email from an @aol.com email address the stink eye, especially if it contains an attachment, and definitely don't click on any links unexpectedly sent along from your Usenet buddies of yesteryear. And while you're waiting for the spam flood to cease, be sure to check out PCWorld's guide to protecting your PC against devious security traps, which can help you learn how to identify and handle all sorts of dastardly web tricks, from malicious emails to phishing attempts to drive-by-downloads. Knowing is half the battle, folks.