Today, on January 18, a lot of major websites, including Google, Reddit and Wikipedia, have shut down their regular activities or posted protest banners to show their solidarity with the anti-SOPA movement. Security experts warn that this may be a great opportunity for cybercriminals to launch their own SOPA-related scams.
Even famous hacktivist collectives such as Anonymous have joined the protests, but other, not so friendly cybercriminals may take this occasion and send some cleverly designed emails in the attempt of spreading pieces of malware or other malicious elements.
ESET researchers warn that just like other major events, the SOPA Blackout or other anti-SOPA forms of protest might be taken advantage of to send emails with stories that may attract attention, bearing a link or an attachment that points to a malware-filled location.
Distinguished researcher Aryeh Goretsky warns that the crooks may announce that a certain website is returning to operation earlier than reported, or some notifications may provide ways to bypass the blackout by visiting a “new web site.”
“The ‘new’ site being promoted may have far more malicious actions than in mind than pictures of kittens, discussions about ents, bacon and narwhals or jokes about arrows to the knee,” Goretsky says.
By manipulating search engine results with the aid of black-hat search engine optimization techniques, ill-purposed schemes can be promoted to record a high rate of success, ultimately filling the pockets of the crooks.
While any news on this topic may raise a lot of interest, users are advised to inform themselves only from trusted sources, ignoring any outrageous-looking messages received from unknown email addresses.
On the other hand, users should treat even messages from friends with suspicion as crooks may rely on compromised accounts to spread their scams. Security solutions providers predict that in 2012 cyber villains are going to rely on the trust factor that exists between friends even more than before.