Cyber thieves may hack their accounts; also spam e-mails with videos doing the rounds

Netizens searching for news and pictures related to al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden have been cautioned by cyber experts to beware as their accounts could be hacked or spams could harm their computers. Those active in social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are particularly vulnerable.

For instance, Internet security firm McAfee has pointed out that with the news of bin Laden being dead, spam e-mails with videos disapproving of his possible killing are doing the rounds in cyberspace. These e-mails lure users into clicking the link which are then directed to a site that downloads a small file onto your system.

Trojan stealing data

This file, detected currently as either “Heuristic.LooksLike.Win32.EPO.F” or “Artemis!7C4314D9690D” is a Trojan (programme used to hack an Internet account) that does nothing but steal data.

“McAfee has also seen links and scams that lead to FakeAV, RBot and ZBot binaries…such spam mails carry the following subject lines – ‘See video in which Osama bin Laden is shown holding a newspaper with today's date'; ‘OSAMA-BIN-Laden-aparece-segurando-jornal-com-a-data-de-hoje-obama-se-passa-por-mentiroso.exe', ‘fotos-do-osama-morto.exe', ‘pictures-of-osama-dead.exe',” it said.

Malicious content

It has warned users to look out for any of the above words in the subject lines of e-mails, links via Facebook or Twitter as such mail/links will be malicious. To stay safe while surfing, McAfee has asked netizens to be cautious and especially on guard when receiving messages that purport to offer photos of bin Laden's body, funeral at sea or any additional details.

Similarly, Websense Security Labs has warned that hackers could immediately take advantage of notoriety and the huge trends in searches in an attempt to infect massive amounts of computer users.

Think, then click

“Cyber criminals are constantly exploiting where the masses go, and news on Osama bin Laden's death is no exception. We wanted to warn everyone looking for news on bin Laden's death to be cautious when clicking on new links,” said Patrik Runald, Senior Manager, Security Research, Websense Security Labs.

“Make no mistake, hackers are going to go after websites…along with search engine results to prey on visitors looking for more information. Compromises on breaking news items are also very dangerous to organisations because employees who are searching online can potentially put an organisation at risk for exploit and data loss,” he added.

Phishing attacks

Another security software firm, Symantec, has said that the first spam using news of bin Laden's death was seen within three hours of the event. One of the phishing attacks (a way to acquire sensitive information by masquerading as a trustworthy entity) has spammers sending mails to people, which claims to have links to photos and uncensored videos of Osama, and directs users to phishing sites. “Cyber criminals look to make a killing by leveraging the big news through spam, phishing and social engineering tactics,” said Symantec Director (Development) Abhijit Limaye.