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May 03, 2011

News of bin Laden's Death Led to Spam, Malware

By Ed Silverstein, TMCnet Contributor

News of Osama Bin Laden’s death not only increased social media traffic, it led to a greater potential for spam and malware.

The SANS Internet Storm Center put up a warning right after the announcement was made that Bin Laden had been killed by U.S. troops.

“With any large news event like this, we expect a flurry of e-mails, and likely black hat search engine operations trying to take advantage of the event to distribute malware,” the center said.

"There are some image searches that return an image claiming to be an image of dead Bin Laden, but right now, none of the servers hosting it respond,” Johannes Ullrich, chief technical officer of SANS Internet Storm Center, said in a blog post. “Some of the sites return SQL errors indicating that the sites are receiving too much traffic.”

In addition, Imperva's security researchers, warn that spammers are looking to find victims in the United States.

Imperva notes in a blog how one hacker advised taking advantage of the event for search engine optimization purposes. The steps include: creating a fan page “Something like Osama Bin Laden Dead - Rot in hell.” Invite people. Have it go viral. Save the site so it can later be used to “promote a product.”

In addition, two hours after the official announcement about bin Laden’s death, sites started to appear which claimed to have photos of the terrorist leader’s dead body, according to The Inquirer.

In the case of one of these sites, Michael Sutton, vice president of Zscaler, a cloud security firm, told The Inquirer, “when viewers clicked on the link they were asked to download a VLC codec, which was in fact an adware tool called hotbar, a piece of malware that 19 out of 41 current antivirus engines can detect.”

In a related story, TMCnet reported that for many around the world, Twitter, rather than television, was how they found out about bin Laden’s death. The popular social networking site saw a record in the number of tweets Sunday night before President Barack Obama made the official announcement, TMCnet adds.

Ed Silverstein is a TMCnet contributor. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell
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