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Richardson death used to bait scareware traps

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Criminal hackers are exploiting interest in news of the tragic death of actress Natasha Richardson on Wednesday to bait scareware traps.

Cybercrooks are busy creating malicious webpages and filling them with keywords related to the actress's untimely death following a skiing accident earlier this week, according to net security firm Sophos. The ruse, which takes advantage of content scraped from legitimate news websites, is designed to create a high search engine ranking for sites harbouring malicious code.

Users who wind up happening across maliciously constructed websites will be exposed to a malicious script, categorised by Sophos as Reffor-A, designed to alarm users into purchasing a scareware package. Such scareware (fake anti-virus) packages are among the internet's fastest growing nuisances. These applications typically attempt to frighten users into thinking their computers are riddled with malware, even if the PC is clean, as a ruse designed to trick people in purchasing ineffective clean-up tools.

A full write-up of the attack can be found on a Sophos security blog here. As Sophos notes, the incident shows it's safer to go to a trusted news outlet of your choice directly rather than using a search engine to find the latest updates on breaking news stories.

Hackers regularly take advantage of breaking news story, often acting in advance of any kind of security response. For example, hackers exploited confusion created by the Symantec / PIFTS.EXE incident earlier this month and similar keyword stuffing tactics, to draw surfers towards rogue sites, also punting fake anti-malware scanning software. ®

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