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New Spam Uses Fake CNN News Captions

The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Spam Data Mine project team disclosed that all through July 2008, they observed a large volume of bogus e-mails presenting news captions or offers like "Dark Knight - download it instantly for free."

According to Gary Warner, Director of Computer Forensics Research, who is also the project's leader, the main purpose of these bogus messages is to lure recipients into clicking on a link that would lead them to news stories and related videos, as reported by BirminghamNews on August 7, 2008.

However, the researchers said that the above trick, applied very commonly, changed on August 3, 2008, with e-mail messages appearing to come from CNN. UAB, which gathers massive numbers of e-mails to supply spam intelligence to investigators and detect new attack techniques, reports that almost 10% of the total e-mails received in initial few hours had the title "CCN Top 10 Spam" that linked to over 25 Websites all compromised to infect visitors.

The title shows that cyber crooks are simply copying the captions from online news services rather than creating original ones to draw the unwary visitors' attention.

Moreover, the address of sender in the e-mails indicates that it is from CNN. The e-mails also contain a CNN logo and appear to look more professional than only a plain text. However, clicking on a link for these malevolent Websites a counterfeit anti-spyware or anti-virus program is installed that poses to scan the computer and find infections. The sites then offer a rebate to users for upgrading the anti-virus software, but during the purchasing process, the end-users' credit card details are stolen.

Furthermore, during the fake scan, the malicious program downloads several virus programs. Some of these viruses push spam, while some carry out keylogging in which they steal anything a user types on an online banking or retailing site. Others keep displaying pop-up advertisements that mean an income for the spammers every time they show up.

However, to minimize the risk, the Security Researchers at UAB suggested that type the Website address in the user's browser rather than clicking on any link given in a doubtful e-mail.

Related article: New Zealand Releases Code To Reduce Spam

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