15 March 2014

The recent disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is being used by scammers to spread malware through social media and emails.

If you receive an email or social media message linking to a news report or video about the flight, be cautious about clicking links or viewing video, they could be malicious.

Scammers have a long history of using popular current events to entice you into clicking links to malicious pages where malware can be installed on your computer. Recent examples include the Boston Marathon bombings and the Royal Baby announcement.

In each of these scams you are encouraged to click on a link, leading to malware downloading on to your computer.

This latest example focuses the global concern over the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. The message appeals to you to click on the video link.

Security advisor Graham Cluley reports that the scams include messages such as:

Malaysia Plane (MH-370) Has Been Found Near Bermuda Triangle. BBC News: Recent Video Released!

The associated link can take you to a website that appears to be a legitimate website (such as the BBC) however it is a fake.

The following image shows an example of one such website.

Malaysian airlines scam

Image credit: grahamcluley.com

Types of scams

There are a number of different ways in which these types of scams can operate. In one simple version, clicking the link in the message takes you to a website to view the video, but it first asks you to install some software (such as a ‘codec’) to view the video format. Of course, the software is actually malware.

A more subtle form of the scam will, in fact, show you the video while the malware installs in the background.

Other variations of the scam do not attempt to install malware on your computer. Instead, the scammer commits what is known as ‘advertising fraud’—profiting from showing advertisements on the page. While this type of scams is less dangerous, the advertisements can also be malicious, and clicking on them could cause malware to install on your computer.

Staying safe

Be suspicious of any messages you receive from unknown and untrusted sources.

Do not click on links or attachments in a message unless you are completely confident about its content.

You can always navigate to a news source yourself—independently of links in any message—to find a news article.

If you are suspicious, simply delete the message.

More information

Stay Smart Online has more information on avoiding online scams and managing spam.

You can report spam to ACMA.

More information about this scam can be found on Graham Cluley’s website.

The information provided here is of a general nature. Everyone's circumstances are different. If you require specific advice you should contact your local technical support provider.

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Disclaimer

This information has been prepared by  Enex TestLab for the Department of Communications ('the Department'). It was accurate and up to date at the time of publishing.

This information is general information only and is intended for use by private individuals and small to medium sized businesses. If you are concerned about a specific cyber security issue you should seek professional advice.

The Commonwealth, Enex TestLab, and all other persons associated with this advisory accept no liability for any damage, loss or expense incurred as a result of the provision of this information, whether by way of negligence or otherwise.

Nothing in this information (including the listing of a person or organisation or links to other web sites) should be taken as an endorsement of a particular product or service.

Please note that third party views or recommendations included in this information do not reflect the views of the Commonwealth, or indicate its commitment to a particular course of action. The Commonwealth also cannot verify the accuracy of any third party material included in this information.

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