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Scammers step up attacks on Warcraft players

'Particularly nasty' hole closed after four months

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Out to steal online gold and other assets worth real money, scammers are stepping up attacks on World of Warcraft players, according to security researchers.

A researcher from anti-virus firm Webroot has written here how official forums offered by WoW creator Blizzard are being used to spread links that lead to malware that steals passwords and other game credentials. The scam employs the common technique of telling visitors that their Adobe Flash player needs to be updated and then offering a malicious trojan instead of the real installation file.

Elsewhere, phishers are churning out emails that purport to be official communications from Blizzard, according to researchers from security provider Sophos. The emails claim the game maker is launching a new service and invites them to click on a link for a free sneak peak. The resulting website, in turn, phishes user credentials.

The attack outbreaks come a few weeks after Blizzard issued an update for Warcraft III that fixed a gaping hole that could lead to the complete hijacking of machines running the real-time strategy game. According to Webroot researcher Andrew Brandt, it was exploited simply by getting vulnerable victims to join a custom game hosted with booby-trapped maps.

Attackers targeted the vulnerability in a game called DotA, or Defense of the Ancients, by creating fake maps that used the same file configurations as legitimate custom maps.

"What makes this exploit particularly nasty is the fact that your PC gets infected the moment you join a game where the infected DotA map is in use," Brandt wrote. "Once downloaded, the game automatically unpacks the infected map and executes the malicious code."

In April, Blizzard took the drastic step of advising players steer clear of all custom games until a patch could be released. With the hole plugged, attackers are falling back on other ways of preying on players. ®

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