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Hurricane Sandy: Where are all the cynical online scams?

Update: Ah, there you are!

Website security in corporate America

Comment The occurrence of a natural disaster or celebrity death have been guaranteed to mean the appearance of topical scams and malware for some years, certainly since the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004 if not before.

But the devastation wrought by superstorm Sandy on the US north-east coast and beyond has strangely been accompanied by little or no hurricane-themed scams or malware. Fake photos of the storm have appeared online but they haven't been used to trick surfers into visiting scareware portals or exploit-ridden sites. Fake donation pages are notable by their absence. We haven't even come across bogus emails from supposed Nigerian princes left stranded by the storm in Staten Island or Atlantic City, or similar curtain-raisers for the ever popular 419 (advanced fee fraud) scams.

There hasn't even been increased spam, we'd tentatively suggest. Online scams normally surface, at the latest, 24 hours after tragedy strikes but with Sandy there have been unusually few scams, or at least few reports of attempted fraud.

We'd like to think that either disaster-themed scams have lost their appeal as lures or that compassion has won the day. Only a cynic would suggest that perhaps scammers mainly live in New Jersey ...

Meanwhile, back in the real world, Sandy has claimed at least 55 lives, left thousands (at least temporarily) homeless, shut down the electrical grid and caused billions of dollars' worth of damage, mainly in New York and New Jersey. ®

Update: Some Sandy-themed scams have started to appear, albeit a little later than has become normal after a natural disaster. Sophos warns of the appearance of Hurricane Sandy spam messages that act as a lure for survey scams falsely touting "free multi-coloured iPads".

Elsewhere Verizon reports seeing a first use of Sandy as a theme for targeted malware attacks, punting the Sykipot trojan.

Meanwhile, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is using the infrastructure damage caused by Hurricane Sandy to hype cyber threats.

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