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Spam messages exploiting the publicity surrounding the release of the latest instalment of the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise are being used to trick users into installing Trojan horse malware.

The junk mails feature a message that resembles promotional material for the film alongside links that supposedly point users towards trailers for Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. Prospective marks are also offered the chance to win “free tickets”.

Users attempting to download this trailer are, in reality, only offered the Pirabbean-A ( Yar-A) Trojan.

The malware attempts to switch victims' dial-up connections onto a premium-rate number.

The Pirabbean-A Trojan uses a number of social engineering tricks in a bid to avoid detection.

When the Trojan is run, it shows an error message, claiming that the clip failed to load because a user's PC lacks the necessary codecs. Fans are pointed towards the film's official site. The tactic is an attempt to stop users from suspecting that something amiss may have happened to their machines, making it less likely that users will run an anti-virus check. To make doubly sure, the Trojan also attempts to disable anti-virus software.

The Trojan edits some Internet Explorer settings as well, adding two URLs to a user's Favorites. These maliciously constructed sites are designed to seed other forms of dialler software onto the PCs of prospective marks.

The attack is far from the first time that hackers have used interest in Hollywood's produce to punt their wares. Previous malware strains have posed as clips from Harry Potter movies or targeted fans of such favourites as Kill Bill and Star Wars.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End opened worldwide this weekend and is likely to do very well at the box office, despite the best efforts of critics such as the BBC Five Live's Mark Kermode. ®

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