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'Obama quits' spam recruits zombie drones

President-Elect heading for office, not Pacific island

Website security in corporate America

Scammers are capitalising on worldwide interest about Barack Obama's inauguration via a spam email campaign that claims the Illinois senator turned prez44 plans to turn down the office he fought so long to obtain.

The messages falsely claim the President-Elect doesn’t want the responsibility of saving a "sinking ship". This sensationalist message, like many others before it, some of which even claimed that WWIII had broken out in the Middle East, are designed to trick the credulous into visiting a fraudulent website that harbours malicious code.

Prospective marks clicking onto sites promoted via the spam campaign are redirected to lookalike Obama campaign websites designed to trick the gullible into downloading malicious code that turns compromised clients into zombie drones on the Waledec botnet, according to security researchers at Marshal8e6. The bogus websites - with domains including "greatobama" or "superobama" - contain links to a file called “barakspeech.exe”, or similar.

Users who run this file on an unprotected Windows PC get pwned. The fraudulent emails associated with the campaign come with subject lines such as "Amazing News".

"The web site that these spam messages link to looks official and convincing at first glance," said Phil Hay, senior threat analyst for the Marshal8e6 TRACE Labs. "Closer examination reveals numerous spelling and grammatical errors on the site which could alert wary email users that this is a trick.

"Unfortunately we expect that many users who are lured to these sites will invariably click on the link and infect themselves."

The Waledec botnet first appeared on the scene in December 2008, taking up the Storm botnet’s stock in trade of spreading malware by tricking users into visiting sites containing malware promoted via sensational news headlines or other social engineering tricks. Some researchers reckon the gang behind the Storm botnet are also behind Waledec.

More details of the attack, including a list of the spoofed domains and screen shots, can be found in a write-up by Panda Security here.

Back to reality

Back in the real world plans to stage Obama's historic inauguration are proceeding. The LA Times reports that security officials are creating the most "high-tech security bubble ever" ever to protect the incoming president. Metal detectors will be in place to screen ticket holders. All inaugural personnel will be put through criminal background checks.

Sharpshooters will be posted on rooftops. There'll be surveillance of metro lines and of the crowd attending the event. A number of mobile command posts have been established. The FBI has a weapons-of-mass-destruction response truck on standby and Obama himself will ride in an armoured limo said to be capable of withstanding even rocket-propelled grenade attack.

Despite all these precautions, security experts are still wary of the possibility of a lone individual or small group getting into the event and causing disruption, even though Obama and his family will be very well protected.

Those unable to watch the event will be able to look at live streaming feeds on the internet, if everything goes to plan. Computerworld reports that some experts are expecting anything between jittery video to a huge traffic surge that will slow internet performance. Warnings of this type are commonly issued by bandwidth optimisation or workplace filtering firms in the run-up to major sporting events, such as the Olympics and World Cup.

Real problems almost never arise. Even in the worse case scenario, internet surfers interested in the Obama inauguration can listen to the inauguration line on the radio or TV in the vast majority of locations where broadband internet viewing is even an option. ®

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