Osama Bin Laden's Death Ups Risk for Cyber Scams

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The death of Osama bin Laden may not just mean an increased risk of terror attacks across the country, but the possibility of more cyber scams on the Web.

Following the news that bin Laden had been killed and buried at sea, computer researchers said cyber scammers were quick to set online traps for people searching for and sharing information about the terrorist leader.

"When people are searching on Google and they're clicking on top results, when news events are happening, they need to keep in mind that the Web is still a wild place," said Kurt Baumgartner, a senior security researcher for Kaspersky Labs, a security firm.

In the day following the big news, Baumgartner said cybercriminals started using top search results related to bin Laden in Google Images to redirect people to pages filled with malware.

Baumgartner said if they searched for "Osama bin Laden" in Google Images, one of the highest results on the page could have taken them to a malicious website ready to infect their computers. Some poisonous pages try to convince users that their computer is already infected with a virus, and then prompt them to pay for and download fake anti-virus software.

The online trap not only tricks people into paying for a service they don't need, it puts their credit card information into the bad guys' hands.

While Baumgartner said it looks as though Google has taken steps to minimize the threat on Google Images, the threat could escalate again in the ongoing cat-and-mouse game between cyber crooks the experts who thwart them.

"It's a constant fight," he said.

Facebook Scams Collect Email Addresses, Contacts

Facebook users looking to share links and "like" stories and video face a different kind of risk.

Ads on the social network may promote offers celebrating bin Laden's death -- such as those for free tickets or free sandwiches -- but by clicking on the ads, users are just redirected to scam-filled pages that prompt them to turn over personal information, Baumgartner said.

As they "like" the ads or click on the fake links, they give online criminals a way to reach their Facebook contacts and spread the scam to their friends. They also help the crooks collect email addresses or other valuable information.

Security researchers at Sophos Labs said a "death video" scam related to bin Laden was spreading virally on Facebook.

The messages leading to the video link claim there is banned video of bin Laden's final hours. But by "liking" and sharing the link (which doesn't actually point to video at all) Facebook users give cyber criminals access to their contacts while helping them collect money (Sophos says they get paid per click).

"People should understand on Facebook that when there are these great offers, usually the offers are too good to be true," Baumgartner said. "And just because something has been posted on a friend's wall it doesn't mean it's from them."