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AOL Mail Hacked, Sending Spam

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If you receive a suspicious email from an AOL, Inc. (NYSE:AOL) customer…let me start again. Any time I receive an email from an address terminating with @aol.com, I’m going to be suspicious. My reason? My grandmother died a few years back and with it, the last of my friends and family to use AOL for anything but a portal to the Huffington Post.

Joking aside, AOL, Inc. (NYSE:AOL) is still around, though the company is warning people that its mail service has been hacked and that you need to be suspicious beyond the aforementioned reason. A number of AOL accounts are sending spam emails or rather spoofed emails after the service was compromised.

Spam or spoof?

My late grandmother would appreciate knowing the difference and AOL was happy to oblige yesterday on a help page by explaining the difference: “Spoofing is when a spammer sends out emails using your email address in the From: field. The idea is to make it seem like the message is from you – in order to trick people into opening it,” it read.

“These emails do not originate from AOL, Inc. (NYSE:AOL) and do not have any contact with the AOL Mail system – their addresses are just edited to make them appear that way,” the company said. “The message actually originates from the spammer’s email account and is sent from the spammer’s email server.”

Head of communications leaves AOL

On the same day that AOL felt obliged to share this information and asked its customers to change their passwords, the company announced that it had parted ways with its head of communications Peter Land, the man who, along with his subordinates, was responsible for sending out explanations of “spoofing.”

Mr. Land joined AOL from Pepsico in April 2013, and has left the company without further elaboration.

Smart money is on the fact that AOL CEO Tim Armstrong is a bit of a jackass. During Mr. Land’s time at AOL, Armstrong was a gaffe waiting to happen. Notable examples including his use of the term “distressed babies” in reference to the offspring of AOL employees to explain rolling back employee benefits and the firing of Patch creative director Abel Lenz in the middle of a conference call.

“We are investing in our communications function by promoting two of our most talented up-and-coming leaders,” an AOL spokeswoman said in email.

Good luck Mr. Land, “You’ve got…a better job.”

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Brendan Byrne

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