LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Even in death, Osama bin Laden continues to wreak havoc, but this time the radical Islamic leader isn’t using bombs or bullets — he’s using Twitter and Google.
A search for the keywords “Osama bin Laden dead” — one of the most searched-for phrases online, according to Google Trends — will likely pull up websites from across the political spectrum, and even some that may install malware on your computer without your even knowing it.
Ellinor Mills, a reporter with technology news outlet CNET, tells KFWB 980’s Lisa Osborne that scammers are looking to capitalize on what will most likely be one of the biggest news events of 2011.
“The scammers and malware writers are particularly trying to grab people with promises of video,” Mills said. “That’s the hottest commodity out there: video…and next would be photos.”
In her CNET blog, Mills said a Twitter user based on Pakistan now has over 66,000 followers after posting real-time tweets on as the assault on the bin Laden compound.
The quick spike in popularity made that user attractive to hackers, and malware was soon embedded on the blog site.
While malware normally can’t infect your computer without first gaining access via user approval, Mills reports this particular type installs itself as a “drive-by download” that doesn’t require any action on the part of the user.
The biggest snare: searching for images of the al-Qaida leader’s corpse, according to Mills.
“There might be a doctored image of bin Laden — there’s one circulating that the scammers are recycling — and so people think, ‘Oh yeah, these are some gory images, let’s check it out’,” Mills said.
Facebook users are also vulnerable: spam messages offering “Free Subway To Celebrate Osama’s Death” or “2 Southwest Plane Tickets for Free – 56 Left Hurry” include a link to a short URL service.
One cybersecurity firm found another scam linked to users who click the “Like” button for a video on a malicious Spanish language blog.
While interest in the death of bin Laden will eventually taper off, Mills said web surfers should beware of searching for information related to the assault and that they should only visit reputable news sources to avoid any infection.
“There is no video of this event, so don’t click on anything that purports to offer video of it,” Mills said. “Even the images can’t be trusted.”
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