Why cybercriminals love a good Valentine’s Day

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Why cybercriminals love a good Valentine’s Day

For cybercriminals, Valentine's Day is just another opportunity to draw in unsuspecting internet users, as Phil Vasic, A/NZ country manager for Websense, explains.

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As Valentine's Day approaches, most peoples' thoughts turn to romance and flowers. For the cybercriminal, however, it heralds another opportunity to draw in unsuspecting internet users.

Many of the most common scams around this February rely on existing vulnerabilities in software, spam, fake sites and distraction techniques. Organised criminal units have a long history of timing their attacks to coincide with popular occasions in order to achieve maximum success.  Valentine's Day 2009 is a day that is similarly marked on the criminals' calendar for targeted attacks.

In the weeks running up to February 14, many phishing emails have already been doing the rounds supposedly promoting love or dating opportunities. The Websense Security labs have seen several fake Valentine's Day sites serving up malware, an increase in adult dating and 'healthcare'-related email spam, and blended email/web/phone techniques promoting premium rate phone services - which are always a good way to make a fast dollar.

The same techniques have been used in other recent campaigns, such as Obama spam and fake New Year greetings cards. The public are becoming more aware of these, however, and it's getting harder to trick people this way. Cybercriminals are also taking their efforts to social networks, given its rising popularity and potential to manipulate the user through "friend" messages.

Here are the top three things to look out for:

1. Broken hearts

There are a number of fake Valentine's Day sites serving up malware courtesy of the Waledac gang (or at least exhibiting the same characteristics as them). The sites show colourful images such as puppy dogs or a picture of 12 pretty hearts and ask "Guess which one is for you?"

Unfortunately the web page is one big image and a single click from a tricked user commences the download of Trojans named "onlyyou.exe" or "youandme.exe" which are not as friendly as they sound. The Trojan can connect to remote websites to receive commands and send information about the compromised system.

2. I am your friend

Spammers are using our appetite for social networking and turning to sites such as Twitter, Facebook and MySpace as new ways to trick users into visiting fake sites, installing viruses and spreading malware on the internet. Web spam, in blogs and on comment pages, is also on the rise. Users should be wary of links posted by strangers on their blogs - chances are the links will not them lead them to love, as promised.

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