Computer Crime Research Center


Bin Laden's death leads to surge in cybercrimes, Internet scams

Date: May 04, 2011

Security experts are warning Web-surfing consumers about a rise in cybercrime and scams related to Osama bin Laden's death.

Major news events are often accompanied by an uptick in cybercrime, as perpetrators seek to take advantage of Web searches for content such as pictures and videos.

"I suppose this was just inevitable," Dave Marcus, director of security research for McAfee Labs, wrote in a blog post. "The reported death of Osama Bin Laden is just too good a lure for cybercriminals and scammers to pass up."

Marcus said e-mails are circulating with links purporting to lead to photos of bin Laden's corpse. One message teases to a video showing bin Laden disproving his death by holding a newspaper with Monday's date. Clicking on the links generally opens files that install malware on the user's computer. In other cases, cybercriminals have poisoned Google Images results.

Facebook is also a fertile breeding ground for these scams, with malicious links being circulated on posts and messages within the social networking site. Researchers at Kaspersky Labs said they noticed scam ads on Facebook promising free merchandise in celebration of bin Laden's death. Users that click on the ads will be redirected multiple times, with each layer asking for more detailed personal information, Kaspersky Labs said.

Experts at Websense said cybercriminals compromised the website of Sohaib Athar, the Pakistani information technology consultant living in Abbottabad who provided a real-time account of the U.S. operation via his Twitter feed. In a blog post, Websense said a malicious code was embedded into the site that installs malware on a computer. The malware installs fake software that looks like a security tool, and prompts users to enter their credit card information to purchase a premium version of this software.

Security experts said consumers should be careful searching for information on the Web, visiting only websites of credible news sources, and be wary of links in e-mails. Making sure anti-virus and firewall software is updated is also helpful, as these kinds of attacks are increasingly common.

"We believe the hackers laid the criminal groundwork in advance, waiting for the right news trigger," said Rony Moshkovich, malware researcher at PC Tools.

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