Boston Marathon Bombing: Used to Disseminate Malware & Conduct Financial Fraud

The information provided below is intended to increase the security awareness of state government's end users and to help them behave in a more secure manner within their work environment. BIT has permission and was encouraged to brand and redistribute this advisory in whole for educational, non-commercial purposes. For more information regarding potential cyber threats please visit the Center for Internet Security website at CISecurity.org.

The bombing at the Boston Marathon on April 15 does not just mean an increased threat level across the country and globe, but it also includes risks to new and recycled Internet scams.

The Threats: Internet watch groups and cyber security experts have already identified multiple fake domains/websites, and charity efforts taking advantage of the Boston Marathon bombing. Based on previous tragedies, more scams will follow in the coming days. Internet users need to apply a critical eye and conduct due diligence before clicking links, visiting websites, or making donations.

Actors with unknown intentions registered over 125 domain names associated with the Boston Marathon bombings and victims, in the hours after the incident. The majority of these new domains use a combination of the words “Boston,” “Marathon,” “2013,” “bomb,” “explosions,” “attack,” “victims,” and “donate” and should be viewed with caution. More domains are likely to follow.

In addition to fake domains, fake social media accounts are created with similar intent. For example, Twitter account @_BostonMarathon was created shortly after the explosions took place. The account stated it would donate $1 for each retweet, and was crafted to closely resemble the legitimate Boston Marathon Twitter account (@BostonMarathon). This account has since been suspended by Twitter; however, the likelihood that similar social media accounts will surface remains high.

Phishing emails may provide links to malicious websites purporting to contain information, pictures, and video, or may contain attachments with embedded malware. Clicking on the links or opening the attachments can infect the victim’s computer to further malicious activity.

Multiple fake charities were created on social networking websites within minutes of the explosions purporting to collect funds for victims. Traditionally, these websites are scams.

The Action: Users should adhere to the following guidelines when reacting to large news events, including news associated with the Boston Marathon bombing, and solicitations for donations:
  • Be cautious of emails/websites that claim to provide information because they may contain viruses.
  • Do not open unsolicited (spam) emails, or click on the links/attachments contained in those messages.
  • Never reveal personal or financial information in email.
  • Do not go to untrusted or unfamiliar websites to view the event or information regarding it.
  • Never send sensitive information over the Internet before checking a website's security and confirming its legitimacy. Malicious websites may look identical to a legitimate site, but the URL may use a variation in spelling or a different domain (e.g., .com vs. .net).

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