We’ve all heard that Kristen Stewart had an affair with that Director a few weeks ago, and I’m sure at least some of you did further research on the story, online. Unfortunately, in doing so, you may have exposed yourself to malware. And it’s not just Kristen Stewart. Malicious users create malware designed to attract public interest focus on popular, topical search terms.
Another recent example was the death of Osama Bin Laden, which saw a number of websites attempting to illegally profit from the news by distributing fake links to ‘exclusive’ images and videos containing malware.
Malicious users are capable of building a fake site very quickly and loading it with key-loggers or other malware, while ensuring that the design looks authentic. They then use SEO - Search Engine Optimization in a malicious way, to ensure the websites appear high in a search engine's list. So, when you or I type in "kristen stewart affair", for example, the search engine recognizes a relevant malware-infected website and presents it as a top ranking result. It’s not just websites you need to worry about. During the Japan tsunami, e-mails that appeared to come from the British Red Cross asking for donations were circulated.
Repercussions range from nuisance pop-ups to far greater threats. For example, hackers could use these websites to install keystroke logging software that automatically sends everything you type at your keyboard to a malicious third party. While much of this will be harmless, it could obviously include information such as usernames, passwords, credit card details, answers to security questions and login information for banks and payment services.
Here are some tips to help avoid being infected by malware:
- Be wary of any links or attachments in e-mail messages that promise to show dramatic or “exclusive” photos or videos. As a rule of thumb you should never open any attached or external content from unknown websites or e-mails.
- Be vigilant – if you’re searching for a “hot topic” and you get plenty of results, but none appear to be from well-known websites or organizations, you could end up on a site that contains malware. Stick to websites you know.
- Be wary of any sites that claim to have detected malware on your system, and offer to download a malware scanner or similar software to solve the problem. This is a common way for malicious users to install dangerous software on your computer, and some of these attacks can cause significant damage.
- Social networking is another platform that is being exploited to help spread malware – again be wary of any links posted to your profile that claim to show dramatic or unseen footage of an event.
- Be particularly careful with any executable downloads – in other words, files that end in “.exe”. Often you’ll be asked to install a piece of software before gaining access to promised content – this is a common way to trick users into installing malware.
- Be aware that smartphones are just as susceptible to malware as home computers, and exercise the same degree of caution, as well as investing in effective mobile security like BullGuard's, is important.
- Use BullGuard Internet Security 12, the safe browsing component will flag any unregistered or unsafe websites as you browse, warn you of the problem and allow you to return to the previous page without the risk of infection.
So, next time you’re reading gossip on your phone or your computer – stay with the gossip sites you know, and make sure you’re protected with BullGuard Mobile Security 10 and BullGuard Internet Security 12!