Hackers spoof MSNBC alerts in new twist on malware ruse

Hackers now pushing breaking stories from rival CNN network MSNBC.

Hackers trying to plant malware on PCs have switched from touting CNN news in come-on messages to pushing breaking stories said to be from rival network MSNBC, security experts said today.

The fake messages pose with subject headings that include the phrase "Breaking News," along with phony news story headlines, such as " Jerry Yang relinquishes control over Yahoo," "Mary-Kate Olsen responsible for Heath Ledger's death," and "Plane crashes into prep school, hundreds of kids killed," said researchers at F-Secure Corp. and Sophos Plc.

Last week, security vendors had warned users of a massive scam that used messages masquerading as news alerts from CNN. At its peak, the blitz dumped nearly 11 million messages an hour on users.

The criminals who launched that attack are also behind today's switch to MSNBC, said Sam Masiello, MX Logic's vice president of information security. "Typically we see copycats shortly after a major campaign, but this was sent by the same people," said Masiello.

Like the CNN spam, the MSNBC messages include links claiming to offer the complete news story. People who click on those links, however, reach a faux-CNN site where a dialog box claims an update to Adobe System's Flash Player is necessary to view a video clip.

The bogus update -- named "adobe_flash.exe," according to Masiello -- is actually a Trojan horse identified by security vendors as "EncPk-DA" and "Exchanger.mn" among other names. The Trojan, in turn, "phones home" to a malicious server to grab and install more malware.

The MSNBC campaign may just be getting started, said Masiello, who estimated the volume at mid-day Wednesday at between 1.5 and 2 million messages per hour. "But remember, it took about three days for the CNN spam to peak," he said.

One clue that the new spam is from the same group is that the page popping up when users click on the malicious links contains the CNN logo, not MSNBC's.

The CNN spam and malware enticements prompted Adobe last week to issue a warning to PC users.

"Do not download Flash Player from a site other than Adobe.com," said David Lenoe, the company's product security program manager, in an entry on a company blog.

"If you get a notice to update, it's not a bad idea to go directly to the site of the software vendor and download the update directly from the source. If the download is from an unfamiliar URL or an IP address, you should be suspicious."

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments



Sansai 6-Outlet Power Board + 4-Port USB Charging Station

Learn more >



Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?