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Bin Laden death exploited by computer scams

May 4, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The FBI and security software companies are warning computer users that any photos or video claiming to show Osama bin Laden dead are fake, and opening those files could be dangerous to your computer.

Here we go again: A big event happens and cybercriminals use that news to create a scam. This time the scam involves Osama bin Laden and pictures of his bloody face, or pictures of him alive holding a newspaper dated after his death. According to the FBI, opening any links with those photos could release a virus that could damage your computer.

On social networking websites like Facebook, there are numerous photos and information about the killing of Osama bin Laden. Most are legitimate.

But as the security software company McAfee says on its website, there are now plenty of fake photos that are really just links to malicious viruses.

"Every time something big happens in the news or an event happens or a sporting event happens, the bad guys are there before the good guys are because the lures work every single time. People will always click the link," said Dave Marcus, McAfee Labs director of security research and communications.

"If you were to click one of the links that says it will take you to a picture of the killing, it will probably take you to a website that tries to install a piece of malware onto your machine, like fake antivirus or a 'bot' or something like that," said Marcus. "Certainly nothing good is going to happen."

McAfee issued a security alert about these scams, as has the FBI.

So let's talk about some of the things you should do to avoid being scammed by this or any other web scam.

First of all, put yourself on alert. Don't open emails or attachments from people you don't know.

Don't click on just any links. Beware of shortened links found through social networking news feeds. They may be redirecting you to fake websites with malicious software.

Use trusted security software. Computer owners should always have up-to-date firewall and anti-virus software running on their machines.

"If you're running up-to-date security software, you're up to date with your patches, you will protected against the scams that are running out there today," said Marcus.

Also, the FBI wants the public to know they have a complaint center. Should you receive unsolicited messages that feature the FBI's name, seal, or that reference a division or unit within, the FBI, or an individual employee, they want you to report it at the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center at http://www.ic3.gov.