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Cybercriminals are exploiting the disappearance of a Malaysia Airlines plane by luring users to websites purporting to offer the latest news in order to steal their personal information, SCAMwatch warns.
SCAMwatch, which is run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), has urged internet users to exercise caution when clicking on links shared on social media for news of flight MH370.
The flight mysteriously vanished from the radar in the early hours of March 8 while on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. There is no trace of the aircraft or the 239 people on board, despite a massive international search.
“You receive an email or it will appear on your Facebook page (often from someone you don’t know) and it will have a catchy headline around the missing Malaysia plane, designed to tap into our emotion, worry and concern about it and our desire to understand what’s happened,” said Delia Rickard, the Deputy Chair of the ACCC.
Ms Rickard warns that there is also an executable file disguised as a video that, when clicked, allowed scammers to collect a user’s data, such as his or her IP address.
“Do not click on this. The mere act of clicking on the video… will cause malware to be downloaded onto your computer,” she told SBS.
“That malware will be able to search your computer, see all of your personal information, trace your finger taps when you’re putting in your banking password etcetera.
“The scammer… can then commit ID fraud, or potentially access your bank accounts and empty them out.”
Full interview: Delia Rickard, ACCC Deputy Chair
One scam enticed Facebook users to click a link that leads to a page with the heading: “Malaysia Plane (MH-370) Has Been Found Near Bermuda Triangle. BBC News: Recent Video Released!”
When the link is clicked, users are taken to a fake page with a “ready to play” video. Further clicks will prompt the user to take further actions such as share the link, take a simple survey or download software before the video can be viewed.
Ms Rickard added that cybercriminals have previously used the deadly bomb attack on the Boston Marathon and the birth of the royal baby to lure unsuspecting users to malicious websites.
“There have been a number of iterations of this sort of scam. We’re used to seeing this,” she told SBS.
“We’re concerned, so our defences are down and we’re more likely to click on something. But we’re saying keep your guard up. Don’t trust links that are sent to you.”
Protecting yourself from online scams
Ms Rickard said there were simple ways to protect ourselves from an online scam.
Be wary. If someone you don’t know has sent you a link, don’t click on it. “Don’t take the chances of infecting your computer.”Have a good quality firewall on your computer. Make sure you have the latest anti-virus anti-spyware software and that you’re constantly checking your computer. “If you think you may have clicked on one of these, you can run your virus scan to see if that identifies anything.”Get professional help. If you think your computer has been compromised, contact an IT specialist, a computer consultant, or your anti-virus software company.Use trusted news sources instead of social media. “If you get, out of the blue, a link to video footage or links to more information about this, be very wary. Don’t click on them. If you want information about the latest on the missing Malaysia plane, go to a trusted, respected news site.”