Cybercriminals eye gold with Olympic Games scams

Bulk of phishing scams are unsophisticated, looking to take advantage of so-called 'low-hanging fruit.'

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Wed, August 08, 2012

CSO — The public's appetite for scandal around the world is practically insatiable. Not surprisingly, cybercriminals try to take advantage of it, especially during an event like the 2012 Olympic Games.

But the good news, say experts, is that the bulk of the scams are unsophisticated, looking to take advantage of so-called "low-hanging fruit."

One of the more recent, discovered by security vendor Sophos, is a malware campaign that tries to snare victims with a fake scandal at the Olympics.

A post by Graham Cluley on Sophos' Naked Security blog said a spam email comes with a subject line saying: "Huge scandal with the USA Women's Gymnastics Team on the 2012 London Olympics."

The body of the email then promises salacious details about USA women's gymnastics gold-medal winner Gabrielle Douglas facing a lifetime ban after reportedly testing positive to banned diuretic furosemide. "View the video on youtube now," it says.

[See also: Phishing - The Basics]

"However," Cluley's post said, "clicking on the link takes you not to the real YouTube website, but a lookalike webpage that runs various pieces of JavaScript code, and asks users to download an Adobe Flash plugin to view the content."

This is not the only scam seeking to use the Olympics as leverage. Cloud security vendor Zscaler reported last week that it had looked at web domains carrying the string "olympics" that had been accessed by their customers during a day and found that 80% were scams or spam, which they classified into three main categories.

Typo squatting lets spammers, "take advantage of users making mistakes when typing a domain name directly into the browser address bar by purchasing domain names close to their intended target -- for example: gooogle.com (3 letter o's)," said a blog post by Zscaler's Julien Sobrier.

The other two are scams for receiving cable or satellite TV on a PC for a very low monthly fee, and "Made for Adsense" (MfA) -- "highly targeted websites that drive web traffic from search engines. They contain enough content to get listed in search engine results for as a specific query," Sobrier wrote.

But, he added, "I guess the good news is that most of the scams are targeting 'low hanging fruit' and don't involve sophisticated exploits."

Indeed, other experts say these are essentially old-school exploits. Cluley told CSO Online that Sophos products detect the malware as Troy/Agent-XIK and Troj/JSRedir-IA and blocks them as both spam and malware. "We analyze the link that the email really goes to rather the one it claims to go to," he said.

Andrew Jaquith, CTO of Perimeter E-Security, called them "your usual garden-variety phishing scam."

"The formula is simple: write a story containing something sensational, scandalous, or salacious. In the body of the email, induce curious readers to click on a link that takes them to a malware-infested site. Harvest victims. Find another story and launder, rinse, and repeat," Jaquith said.

And Kevin McAleavey, cofounder and chief architect of the KNOS Project, called it, "a decades-old scam." It is the kind of thing, they say, that users ought to catch even if they don't have good anti-virus software.

"The usual advice applies," said Jaquith. "Beware of topical emails with links, even from people you know. Don't click unless you can verify the sender and the link."

McAleavey said if a user is suspicious, "don't click on links in emails without first copying it, then open a browser, paste it in and look at what you've got."

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