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Scareware scumbags exploit 9/11

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Updated Fraudsters have set up websites supposedly containing info about 9/11 but actually geared towards running fake anti-virus (scareware) scams.

Net security firm Sophos reports a number of "9/11-related" webpages that actually host malicious code are using search engine manipulation techniques to boost their rankings on Google. Some of the targeted search terms refer to a woman, called Tania Head, who claimed to have been in the Twin Towers on 9/11 but was later exposed as a fraud.

Visitors to the malicious web pages - whether they are using a Mac or a PC - are confronted with a list of viruses that have supposedly infected their system and invited to try out fake security software of little or no utility. The attack is explained in greater depth in a blog post by Sophos here.

"The websites we've seen point unsuspecting users to a fairly bog-standard fake anti-virus page," explained Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. "The websites check that the page referrer is Google, and the various scripts will not forward to the target site unless Google is the referrer.

This happens a lot with fake anti-virus software attacks - chances are that the sites which are listed on Google have been hacked by the bad guys, with the intention of redirecting users to the scareware pages," he added.

The ruse joins a growing list of incidents whereby unscrupulous cybercrooks latch onto interest in tragedies, natural disasters and other news events to distribute junk. Similar attacks also accompanied the recent death of Michael Jackson and the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster.

Sophos reckons the wrong 'uns running scareware scams appear to be "running a round-the-clock factory, pumping out new websites that exploit the hot trending search terms of the day".

"Clearly, no topical report, however tragic is exempt from the attentions of the criminal mind," writes David Harley, director of malware intelligence at anti-virus firm Eset. "Using Google and other search engines for information and reports about 9/11 is likely to generate results with a load of links leading to rogue antivirus-related sites." ®

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