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Beware of the Obama virus in inbox

Cybercriminals are seeking to capitalise on the results of historic election with malicious email campaigns. How Obama used the web's money power

, ET Bureau|
Nov 07, 2008, 11.20 AM IST
PUNE: US president-elect Barack Obama, who was swept into the White House on a wave of popularity, has turned out to be even more popular with spammers and virus attackers. Cybercriminals are seeking to capitalise on the results of the closely-watched historic election with mass malicious email campaigns. Web, data and email security solutions provider Websense, which claims to be the first to discover the malicious activity, said that such emails carry information-stealing malware.

Websense regional director of SAARC and India Surendra Singh said, ���The activity began from multiple locations immediately after the Obama���s acceptance speech as a huge number of people were waiting to hear him. The email contained a link to a malicious website, purported to contain a video of Obama���s speech. It then downloaded a rootkit into the user���s computer and sent the vital data to multiple command and control servers.���

What this means is that the data goes into cyberspace and the hackers can remotely control your computer. This is particularly critical if e-banking transactions have been carried out, since this data is now available to the hacker. Attackers used the names of well known publications like Time magazine and La Rep��blica (Peru) in the email subject line to encourage users to click on the links. They used several variations of malicious lures mainly containing videos.

Mr Singh said that attackers had hacked into a well known travel site and used it to host an information-stealing Trojan Horse downloader file called ���BarackObama.exe���. This file executed and unpacked phishing kits locally. Phishing sites are those that appear to be legitimate, encouraging the user to share personal data.

A spokesperson of Symantec, the software data security major, said that a presidential gift card spam was also prevalent, where recipients were asked to complete a survey on the election with the promise of receiving a free gift card, from which spammers harvested personal information. Spammers also executed a Barackumentary attack, where they offered a free DVD about Barack Obama. However, in order to receive this ���free��� video, recipients were asked to provide personal credit card details. Spammers had earlier successfully used the Olympics euphoria to target computer users.

According to AC Nielsen, online shopping has caught up with net savvy Indians in a big way. Seventy-eight per cent of Indian respondents (those accessing internet) surveyed in the recent Nielsen Global Online Survey on internet shopping habits, have used the internet to make a purchase. The survey revealed that 84% Indians used a credit card for online purchases, the highest of credit card use for online purchases in any country in Asia Pacific.

Security companies have also warned that spammers would be perilously active till December, since people greet and treat each other during the festive season. They use the Internet at this time of the year to ���splurge and indulge���, which gives spammers and phishers the perfect occasion to trick users. Experts believe that they could also use the slowdown to spam out gift emails or emails offering products at cheaper prices. They are likely to catch users who might not have fallen prey to such ���cheap deals��� in peak times.

Mr Singh remarked, ���Cyber criminals are not just technocrats but good psychologists, too. They may spam emails offering cheaper deals, and in conditions of economic slowdown, people may not think twice before clicking such links.���
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