New online scams exploit Oslo tragedy and Winehouse death

25 Jul 2011

Cyber criminals are already exploiting Friday’s bomb blast in Oslo, as well as the death of singer Amy Winehouse over the weekend, to trick people into visiting websites infected with malicious software.

Over the weekend, links purporting to show video footage of the explosion in Norway, or a video of Winehouse supposedly filmed hours before she died, began appearing on Facebook. Neither item does what it claims to; instead, anyone clicking on the link is brought to a separate page to complete a survey, with criminals making money for every time someone visits the page. On other occasions, the fake video leads to people inadvertently downloading some nasty software onto their machines.

Security experts were taken aback by the speed with which scammers were able to create these fake news feed items posted on Facebook within four hours of Winehouse’s death, said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant with Sophos.

Stopping the scams

Cluley advised anyone who receives links like these to remove the entries from their news feed in order to prevent friends from sharing them by mistake. Additional options are to mark the listings as spam, and to check your profile for any unwanted likes or interests.

Urban Schrott, cyber crime analyst with ESET in Ireland, said these scams’ very existence means they successfully persuade enough unsuspecting people to click on the links. “Unfortunately, this is nothing new. In spite of fake links appearing practically after every major event in the last year, the speed with which they spread indicates they are getting clicked on with great enthusiasm from Facebook users.”

Schrott said antispam filters are usually wise to these tricks and block email-based versions of these scams from getting through to people’s inboxes. In response, criminals are concentrating their efforts on Facebook, where their chances of success are higher. “The crooks are shifting focus to social networks, where users’ curiosity works in their favour,” he said.

Photo: Links on Facebook purporting to show video footage of singer Amy Winehouse hours before she died