IT security and control firm Sophos is warning that hackers are
exploiting interest in the death of Sea World animal trainer Dawn
Brancheau, who was killed after being attacked by a killer
Ghoulish internet users are searching the web for photographs
and videos of the death, which happened yesterday during a public
show at Sea World, Orlando. However, by using SEO (search engine
optimisation) techniques, hackers have created webpages stuffed
with content which appears to be morbid video footage of the animal
trainer's death - but are really designed to infect visiting
"It's hard to believe that anyone would want to watch video
footage of this horrible death, but it's currently one of the very
hottest search terms on the internet," explained Graham
Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "These
poisoned pages can appear on the very first page of your search
engine's results, and if you visit the links you may see pop-up
warnings telling you about security issues with your computer.
These warnings are fake and designed to trick you into downloading
dangerous software or handing over your credit card details."
Sophos advises that scareware or fake anti-virus attacks like
this are an increasingly common weapon in the armoury of
cybercriminals. The same tactic has been used after the high
profile deaths of others, including
Patrick Swayze and
Boyzone's Stephen Gately.
Sophos detects the malware as Mal/FakeAV-BW, and users are
advised to be cautious about the links they click on and ensure
that they are running up-to-date anti-virus protection.
"You could argue that anyone hunting for footage of this
horrific accident deserves everything that's coming to them, but
the real sick ones here are the hackers who are trying to profit
from the death of an innocent woman in a tragic accident,"
continued Cluley. "The general public would find it much safer to
get their news from established news outlets rather than any Tom,
Dick or Harry website on the internet. There are simply too many
cybercriminals out there waiting to trip up the unwary."
Further information about the attack, including images of the
malicious search results, can be found on
Graham Cluley's blog.