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Watch out for Boston scams by email or tweet

It’s a horrible thing, but opportunist scammers often use tragedies as a chance to exploit computer users. For example, with the explosions in Boston barely a week old, cyber criminals have already started using SPAM emails to infect people’s computers with malware.

When checking your email over the next few weeks, watch out for any messages in your inbox with the subject “Boston Marathon Explosion”. Spammers have been using that eye-catching but ambiguous title to encourage people to open the email, although other forms could be circulating.

The email itself contains a link to a website that shows images of the aftermath of the Boston bombing. At the bottom of the page is an image posing as an unloaded video, which actually downloads a malicious file when you try to play it.

The downloaded file is actually “the Red Exploit Kit”, a piece of software that allows hackers to browse through your system. This allows them to find your personal information, including anything from bank account numbers to website passwords.

And although the subject is mainly of interest to Americans, the FBI has offered the following advice to all internet users:

  • Messages may contain pictures, videos, and other attachments designed to infect your computer with malware. Do not agree to download software to view content.
  • Links appearing as legitimate sites (example: fbi.gov), could be hyperlinked to direct victims to another Web site when clicked. These sites may be designed to infect your computer with malware or solicit personal information. Do not follow a link to a Web site; go directly to the Web site by entering the legitimate site’s URL.

Twitter troubles

As an increasingly popular method of communication, Twitter has also become a target for similar distasteful spam. Fake charity accounts have sprung up on the social network, attempting to exploit caring Twitter users. The account stated it would donate $1 to Boston Marathon victims for every message it received.

While one account has already been suspended, other fake charity accounts – not just for the marathon – are always a concern on the site. The FBI also offered this advice:

Make donations securely by using debit/credit card or write a check made out to the specific charity. Be skeptical of making donations via money transfer services as legitimate charities do not normally solicit donations using this method of payment.

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