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Bin Laden’s Death Sparks Cyberscams

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By Matt Cullina of Identity Theft 911

Hours after the announcement that Osama bin Laden had been killed, cybercriminals launched information attacks targeting news-hungry consumers.

They flooded Facebook pages with invitations to see graphic images of bin Laden’s body to capitalize on the public’s interest in the al-Qaeda leader.

President Obama said May 4 that photos of bin Laden’s body won’t be released. So, computer users who click on fraudulent links of pictures of his corpse are instead exposed to malicious software or spam.

Some pages try to convince consumers that their computer is already infected with a virus, and then ask them to pay for fake antivirus software.

“Consumers should pay attention to major media portals,” said Ondrej Krehel, Identity Theft 911 Information Security Officer. “Social media are used to spread malicious software quickly because users will forward sensational sites to all their friends before they actually review the whole page. When they do, it’s too late. They realize they’ve been scammed and phished.”

The scams are so prevalent that the FBI has issued a warning.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) urged consumers not to open unsolicited e-mails, including clicking links contained within those messages. Even if the sender is familiar, the messages may contain a virus.

The IC3 recommended the following precautions:

  1. Adjust the privacy settings on social networking sites you frequent to make it more difficult for people to post content to your page.
  2. Do not agree to download software to view videos. These applications can infect your computer.
  3. Read e-mails you receive carefully. Fraudulent messages often feature misspellings, poor grammar, and nonstandard English.
  4. Report e-mails you receive that purport to be from the FBI at www.ic3.gov.

Also, Web surfers are urged to be wary about clicking on pages that come up on Google searches, since attackers have successfully poisoned results. The scammers are creating fake news sites, asking users to click on malicious links.

Krehel advises that when you’re looking for news and video, you should stick to the sites you know and major new organizations as such as Al-Jazeera, BBC, CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC. Also, make sure you’re running up-to-date antivirus software. That will help keep your computer safe and your personal information secure against these attacks.

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A version of this article originally appeared on Identity Theft 911 on May 5, 2011.


Image by Seth Anderson, via Flickr.com

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