/ 10 June 2011

Cyber threats in SA up after Bin Laden’s death, Libya

Security software company ESET has highlighted new cyber scams emerging in South Africa and warned against increased cyber threats following the recent killing of Osama bin Laden by United States special forces, along with the ongoing conflict in Libya.

The group said that the death of Osama bin Laden had gone viral with blogs, social media and search engines spreading terabytes of rumour, innuendo and conspiracy theories. “That was the state of the global malware map following the death of Osama bin Laden, and Nigerian letters involving Libya became yet another top scam to target innocent South Africa’s internet users,” it said.

ESET noted that as the number of South Africans searching for pictures and videos of Bin Laden’s execution increased, the criminal syndicates that performed “black hat” search engine optimisation also exploded.

“While such criminal activities have become the norm, are highly automated and otherwise not worthy of interest, the sheer amount of search activity has unleashed a tidal wave of scams and malware,” said Carey van Vlaanderen, chief executive of ESET Southern Africa.

“Global malware thrives on the demise of a global terrorist and ESET is also registering a similar upsurge on Facebook. It’s easy to see why: with more than 500-million active users, Facebook would rank just behind China and India as the third-most populated country in the world, if it happened to be a country,” added Van Vlaanderen.

The group noted that criminals used social engineering to bypass Facebook’s own security measures against malicious JavaScript code by tricking people into copying and pasting it directly into their web browsers’ address bars.

It added that the Libyan conflict had also provided ample inspiration for cyber criminals in the past few weeks. ESET researchers reported an upsurge in Nigerian letter scams, which cost gullible PC users billions of dollars every year.

Just recently a model Nigerian letter appeared, using the Libyan crisis as bait and “government funds” as a hook, it said. And according to the 419hell.com website, which explores these types of cyber threats, a user responded to this type of scam every 44 seconds.

“South Africans must always be sure of the identity of the sender or the instant messenger, or the content of the Facebook message,” said Van Vlaanderen. — I-Net Bridge