Bill Cosby Death Rumor Used to Push Scareware

Search results poisoned with fake news reports

By on February 8th, 2010 15:35 GMT
Security researchers warn that searching for information about the rumored death of famous comedian and actor Bill Cosby has a high chance of leading to scareware. Fake CNN news report sites were artificially promoted to the top of the search results.

A false rumor that Bill Cosby, 72, was found dead by his wife in his chair, circulated on the Internet over the weekend. The incident sent a large number of users searching for additional information on the Web, which in turn made it appealing for cyber-criminals to exploit.

"In what appears to be the latest example of hackers jumping on the coat-tails of a hot trending search topic, criminals have created malicious webpages which pretend to be a CNN news report about Bill Cosby's supposed death - but really display fake warnings about security problems on your computer," Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, warns.

The pages have the purpose of tricking people into downloading fake antivirus software, also known as scareware. Once installed on a computer, such programs continue to display alerts about fictitious infections advising the owner to acquire a license in order to clean the inexistent malware out of their computer.

The hoax, which appears to have originated on Twitter, was rebutted by Bill Cosby himself on his official website. "As you well know, a dead person cannot rebuttal. Therefore, I am rebuttaling to tell you that when I heard the news I immediately began rebuttaling and went into denial. My wife has just informed me that there is no such word as rebuttaling, she says the word is rebutting. But I don't care, because I'm alive!" the comedian, who is no stranger to social media, writes.

This is not the first time when rumors of a celebrity's untimely death are being exploited by scareware distributors. Back in October, the false news of Kanye West dying in a car crash was used in a similar black hat search engine optimization (BHSEO) campaign.

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