|The postings on usenet claim to point to a home movie by Michael Jackson.|
Experts at Sophos have warned computer users that a file posing as a home movie of popstar Michael Jackson is in fact infected by a malicious Trojan horse.
Thousands of sick messages posted to internet newsgroups last night encourage computer users to download a file supposedly containing pictures of Jackson abusing a young boy. In reality, no such photographs are present but the file can open computers up to attack from hackers.
A typical message reads as follows:
Michael Jackson Home Movie Horror
Posted here are the pictures that are going to put Michael Jackson behind bars for a very long time. Disturbing stills taken from the home movies shot by Mr Jackson are now circulating the net. In these pictures here, it can be clearly seen that Mr Jackson is performing un-natural acts with the boy in question.
The distribution of the Trojan horse follows another attempt to hit innocent internet users with the Hackarmy Trojan horse earlier this week - in that instance, the pictures claimed to be compromising pictures of soccer ace David Beckham.
"Controversy has surrounded Michael Jackson for some years, and the sick minded hackers behind this latest Trojan horse are exploiting the public's interest in his Californian court battle," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "Today a lot of people seek breaking news online and may be at risk of falling for confidence tricks such as this. The message is simple - don't trust everything you read on the internet, and ensure you are not putting your computer and its data into danger."
Ironically, the hackers have chosen to tempt users with the offer of stills from a Michael Jackson home movie in the same week that Jackson himself has asked music networks to stop airing a video by rapper Eminem which presents him in an unflattering light.
Michael Jackson is the latest in a long line of celebrities to be used as bait by malware authors and hackers. The promise of glimpses of pin-ups like Halle Berry, Avril Lavigne, Anna Kournikova, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears or the stars of 'Sex and the City' have previously been used to help viruses spread. However, virus inspiration has come from several other less glamorous fields. Political leaders such as Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W Bush and PW Botha join cartoon characters including Pikachu and Kyle from South Park. Even Bill Gates has been used as the psychological trick to dupe users into opening infected files.
Sophos continues to recommend computer users practise safe computing as well as running up-to-date anti-virus software.
Sophos is headquartered in Boston, US and Oxford, UK. More information is available at www.sophos.com.