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Risk

Bin Laden Death Triggers Cyber Scams

Homeland Security warns about rogueware and phishing attacks masquerading as news about the Al Qaeda leader.

Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters
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Slideshow: Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters
Hackers have already figured out a way to capitalize on the death of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to infect people's computers with viruses by offering up images of his dead body, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) warned Tuesday.

A Google image search in Spanish for "Osama bin Laden body" turned up a domain offering fake antivirus rogueware called "Best Antivirus 2011," according to the DHS, which cautioned people to look out for similar online threats--including phishing scams--related to bin Laden's death.

"The death of Osama bin Laden has garnered attention and interest around the world," the DHS wrote in a blog post Wednesday. "Unfortunately, major news events like this one often bring a wave of phishing scams designed to collect your personal or financial information without your knowledge."

The warning was part of the DHS Stop. Think. Connect. campaign, which is aimed at reminding people to be aware of the dangers that exist when they use the Internet.

Bin Laden's death isn't the only recent news event that could spur new phishing or other online scams, the DHS said. People also should be wary of e-mails about the recent royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

The DHS advised people to keep their software up to date and save and scan e-mail attachments before opening them to protect themselves against phishing scams or malware. Turning off the option to automatically download attachments and viewing emails in plain text also can help avert online scams.

The DHS also encouraged people to report phishing and other online scams to the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), which provides response support and defense against cyber attacks.

Phishing attacks remain a leading cybersecurity threat, particularly to federal government users. Phishing remained the top threat plaguing federal networks between 2009 and 2010, although numbers were down slightly year over year. In 2010 the feds reported 56,579 phishing attacks, while in 2009 they reported 70,132 attacks.

Phishing recently caused the Department of Energy to shut down Internet access at its Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which houses some of the world's most powerful supercomputers operated by the federal government.

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