updated 3/30/2011 9:19:12 AM ET 2011-03-30T13:19:12

E-mails posing as critical Microsoft Windows security updates are actually deploying corrupted files that can infect computers with a dangerous strand of malware.

The security firm Sophos is warning users to be on the lookout for e-mails titled “Update your Windows,” which contain a letter purporting to be from Steve Lipner, Microsoft’s director of security assurance. The message informs recipients that Microsoft has issued a “high priority” security update for several versions of Windows, and instructs them to download the .zip file attached to the e-mail.

Downloading the corrupted .zip file will automatically infect users’ systems with the W32/Autorun-BMF malware, which has been used in several similar Microsoft-related attacks.

“Of course, Mr. Lipner has nothing to do with the e-mails and Microsoft never distributes security updates via e-mail attachments,” said Graham Cluley, Sophos’ senior technology consultant. Cluley wrote on Sophos’ Naked Security blog that the e-mails are coming from the incorrectly spelled address "," a  common trick scammers use to make rogue e-mails appear real at first glance.

As always, security professionals urge users never to open suspicious links, even if they appear to come from trusted, legitimate sources.


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