Hackers step up game, spread malware using Bin Laden bait

Facebook scams also ramp up as criminals exploit major news event

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"Any time you paste a script into your browser's address bar, you're effectively running code written by the scammers without the safety net of protection," said Graham Cluley, a Sophos senior security technology consultant, in a post to his company's blog Tuesday. The JavaScript shares the bogus news of the video with all of a user's Facebook friends by posting it to their "walls."

The criminals make money, said security firm Commtouch, by eventually shunting to users a marketing page that generates pay-per-click revenues.

Hackers and scammers are able to rapidly ramp up attacks whenever a major news story breaks because they're simply tweaking existing malware or schemes, said Hypponen. And some of their processes are even automated.

"The [search engine poisoning] is fully automated," Hypponen said, referring to the tactic where hackers and other cyber criminals pollute search engine results with pages containing links to malicious sites.

"They automatically generate pages with worthless content, or sometimes with no content at all," said Hypponen. "This works especially well when the news hasn't yet been covered by a normal site. It's possible for anybody to get their page within the top 10 [results] by being fast enough."

Hypponen expected that cyber criminals will continue to exploit Bin Laden's death for some time to come. "They usually keep trying longer than it actually works," he said. "Most people won't be falling for [such scams] for very long, but the video might work for a while, because I wouldn't expect the U.S. to release a real video."

Also part of the Bin Laden campaigns, experts said yesterday, was the first attempt by online crooks to push Mac-specific rogueware to Apple's customers.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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