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Fake bin Laden links spreading malicious software

Doug Gross
Fake links to photos or videos of Osama bin Laden have hit Facebook and e-mail in a big way -- often with malicious intent.
Fake links to photos or videos of Osama bin Laden have hit Facebook and e-mail in a big way -- often with malicious intent.
  • Fake Osama bin Laden links are being used to spread malware via Facebook, e-mail
  • Scammers, spammers and hackers often use big news events to mask malicious links
  • FBI warns Web users to tighten security settings, read unsolicited links carefully

(CNN) -- As news spread that the White House won't release photos of Osama bin Laden's body, federal authorities and security experts on Wednesday were urging Web users to be careful clicking on fake links claiming to offer images or video about his death.

Since the U.S.-led raid that killed bin Laden on Sunday, e-mail inboxes and social-media sites like Facebook have been flooded with bad links that, at best, are unwanted spam and, at worst, contain harmful computer viruses.

People in the cybersecurity industry aren't surprised. Big news events, as well as popular public figures (think Anna Kournikova and Justin Bieber) are often used as click bait for spammers and scammers.

"I suppose this was inevitable," Dave Marcus, head of security research for McAfee Labs, wrote in a blog post. "The reported death of Osama Bin Laden is just too good a lure for cybercriminals and scammers to pass up."

His post lists multiple examples of bin Laden-related malware.

One message claims to link to a photo of the terror leader holding a newspaper to prove he's still alive. One e-mail, written in Spanish, uploads a Trojan horse virus when a photo link is clicked. And a phony Facebook page asks users to paste a script in their browsers which, in turn, spams their friends with the same link.

That page is called "Osama bin Laden Killed (Live on Video)."

"Beware of any verbiage, subject lines in emails, or links via Facebook or Twitter that contain words like these -- as they will almost certainly get you into trouble," Marcus wrote. "Make sure your security software is fully updated and be sure to use safe browsing software as well."

An administration official briefed by the White House told CNN on Wednesday that the president has decided against releasing photos of bin Laden.

Faked photos purporting to show bin Laden's corpse already are circulating online.

On Wednesday Facebook Security posted a message encouraging users to be careful when clicking questionable links and to use the site's "Mark As Spam" links to report that content.

The FBI has released a warning about malicious software being spread with the fake links.

The agency's Internet Crime Complaint Center urges the following:

• Adjust privacy settings on your social-networking sites, like Facebook, to make it harder for friends or non-friends to post items to your wall.

• Do not agree to download new software in order to view a video. This often masks applications that can infect your computer.

• Read e-mails and social-media posts carefully. Malicious messages often contain poor grammar, misspellings and "nonstandard English."

• Report messages that claim to be from the FBI or other security agencies. Their names are often used to try to establish legitimacy.


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