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No-good scareware varmints exploit Wild West game

Hang 'em high

Varmints are exploiting interest in a treasure hunt tied to popular Wild West-themed game Red Dead Redemption to lay scareware traps.

One aspect of the game is a treasure hunt, which features cryptic clues and drawings linked to landmarks in the gameworld where hidden virtual bars of gold might be found. Surfers looking to search for these treasure maps online would be advised to proceed with caution.

Miscreants have manipulated search engine results so that many sites that feature prominently in searches for likely terms link to scareware portals. Surfers who visit these sites via Google will be falsely warned that their PCs are crawling with malware in a bid to scare them into buying fake anti-virus software of no utility, as explained in a blog post by Chris Boyd (AKA Paperghost) of Sunbelt Software.

Scareware attacks are increasingly commonplace but are most often themed around breaking news events (eg celebrity deaths, natural disasters etc). Tapping into the buzz created by a popular video game therefore represents something of a shift in tactics by cybercrooks.

"We haven’t seen other aspects of the game targeted by this Blackhat SEO campaign yet, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen," Boyd writes. "Be on your guard and keep your six shooters ready."

The scam targets PC and console gamers because it relies on internet searches for tips and cheats. A full write-up of the attack, including screenshots of the rogue app and poisoned search results, can be found in a blog post by Boyd here. ®

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