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Beware of Osama Bin Laden Email Phishing Schemes

Posted by Stop. Think. Connect.

The death of Osama bin Laden has garnered attention and interest around the world.  Unfortunately, major news events like this one often bring a wave of phishing scams designed to collect your personal or financial information without your knowledge.

Phishing scammers use email or malicious websites to solicit information by posing as a trustworthy source.  For example, a scam may send an email that looks like it’s from a reputable news organization with links to photos or video when, in fact, it takes you to a malicious website or downloads harmful viruses onto your computer.

The Department’s Stop. Think. Connect. campaign reminds all Internet users to be vigilant whenever they’re online, and to use caution when opening emails that purport to show images related to bin Laden’s death.  The same caution should be used with emails about the Royal Wedding or other recent major news events.

In addition to phishing, scammers may also post fake images online that can lead you to an infected website.  At least two domains were found to be serving up fake antivirus rogueware called "Best Antivirus 2011" on searches for "Osama bin Laden body" on a Google image search in Spanish, according to reports.

By clicking on these links or websites, you are putting your computer and your personal information at risk.

The National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) offers the following advice to protect yourself from phishing schemes:

  • Keep software up to date - Many operating systems offer automatic updates.  If this option is available, you should enable it.
  • Save and scan any attachments before opening them - If you have to open an attachment before you can verify the source, take the following steps:
    • Be sure the signatures in your anti-virus software are up to date (see Understanding Anti-Virus Software for more information).
    • Save the file to your computer or a disk.
    • Manually scan the file using your anti-virus software.
  • Turn off the option to automatically download attachments - To simplify the process of reading email, many email programs offer the feature to automatically download attachments.

View emails in “Plain Text” – many email applications have options to view emails in “Plain Text”, which will restrict link functionalities and other unnecessary, but potentially dangerous, features in emails.

In addition, the Department Stop.Think.Connect. campaign reminds all Americans that whenever you’re online, it’s important to:

  • Stop before clicking on images or opening suspicious email from sources or website you don’t know.
  • Think about who sent you the email before opening any attachments or clicking links.  Be wary of unsolicited attachments, even from people you know.  Above all trust your instincts.
  • Connect and use the Internet with the confidence of knowing you have taken the steps to protect your computer.

If you believe you have been the victim of a phishing attack, report it by sending an email to phishing-report@us-cert.gov

For more information on the Stop. Think. Connect. Campaign, visit www.dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect.

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