While the news that U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden probably came as a big surprise to all of us, the use of the topic to spread malware should be a surprise to no one at this point. As with other major news events, cybercriminals were very quick to poison search results and propagate malware following the newsbreak.
Unfortunately, bin Laden’s death is an excellent and rare opportunity for cybercriminals to profit off malware considering the sheer magnitude of searches involving Bin Laden. Google, for example, reported a one million percent increase in searches for “bin Laden” between 10:30 and 11:30 p.m. EST on May 1st. And in all likelihood, the bin Laden story will continue to be widely discussed as more details emerge.
The story has been all the rage on social network sites like Twitter and Facebook. The number of bin Laden-related tweets per second has reportedly skyrocketed into the thousands for extended periods of time. The prominence of the bin Laden story on social networks has led cybercriminals to infiltrate these networks and spread poisoned posts and links, usually from unsuspecting users’ accounts.
The implicit trust amongst social network contacts makes this tactic very effective. The criminals add credibility to their malware-spreading posts by “liking” them on Facebook and Twitter. Additionally, they use shortened URLs, which are already prevalent in social networks, so that viewers can’t see what’s actually contained in the poisoned URL.
In general, cybercriminals typically choose the most intriguing subject matter to lure people in; frequently, they use privileged information that hasn’t made its way to the masses. For example, since bin Laden’s death, cybercriminals have used messages claiming to show photos and footage of the assassination as bait. Since photos of bin Laden’s body haven’t yet been released—and also as more pieces of information come to light—you can expect to see more malware-laden messages purporting to contain photos of bin Laden’s body or other privileged pieces of information. Always think twice before believing any messages that claim to show rare photos or footage.
Other Tips For Avoiding Malware:
Exercise caution while performing searches on the Internet, and be wary of links in emails, Tweets, and Facebook messages.
Any video that requires you to download software in order to view it is probably infected with malware. In the very least, it should raise a lot of flags.
If you receive any emails or messages purporting to be from the FBI, be sure to report them to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov. Criminals frequently use the FBI’s name to add legitimacy to their scams even though the FBI doesn’t send unsolicited emails to the public.
And of course, if you don’t have it already, get trusted antivirus software, and be sure to keep it up-to-date.