Cybercriminals quick to exploit emerging news

Posted by   Virus Bulletin on   Apr 18, 2013

Malicious emails appear a matter of hours after news of explosions in the US.

It would have come as little surprise to anyone in the security industry that within hours of this week's tragic news emerging from the US, spammers, scammers and malware writers had already begun to exploit interest in the breaking news stories.

We were disturbed to hear that a scammer had set up a fake Boston Marathon account within an hour of the news of the Boston Marathon bombings emerging, and Bitdefender reports that, just hours after the event, keywords relating to the bombings (such as 'marathon', 'Boston' and 'explosion') were appearing in 20% of the spam messages seen in the company's labs.

In a malicious spam campaign, messages claiming to contain links to footage of the explosions at the Boston Marathon were sent out - with subject lines such as 'Boston Explosion Caught on Video'. The messages contained links leading to a website which displays YouTube footage of the incident, but which also downloads malware to the user's machine.

Just days later, the news of a huge explosion at a fertiliser plant in Texas has emerged - and cybercriminals have once again been quick to take advantage of the world's interest in the tragic news, with new messages being spammed out with subject lines such as 'CAUGHT ON CAMERA: Fertilizer Plant Explosion' and other variations on the theme. Once again, the links in the message lead to a website from which malware is downloaded onto the user's machine.

Exploitation of world crises is not limited to those that are only just emerging either. Last week Barracuda Networks reported a 419 scam taking advantage of the ongoing conflict in Syria.

It is disappointing, but no real surprise, that cybercriminals have once again demonstrated that they have little by way of moral boundaries - and that at a time when concerned parties are seeking information about serious world events, or attempting to find ways to help, we all need to be on guard against scams and theft of personal data.

As always, of course, the advice is to visit legitimate news websites for information about emerging stories rather than clicking on links in unsolicited emails, and to refer to reputable aid agencies such as the Red Cross (USA, UK, worldwide) and Disasters Emergency Committee (UK) for details of how to help.

Posted on 18 April 2013 by Helen Martin



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