If someone you know shares an email with you to click on a link to see pictures of Michael Jackson’s body, don’t fall for it.
Antivirus software vendors McAfee and Symantec are issuing warnings to consumers to watch out for celebrity death-related malware following the deaths of the Jackson, actress Farrah Fawcett, and TV showman Ed McMahon.
The antivirus vendors have much to gain from fear about such malware, since they sell antivirus products. But they have also seen the pattern of trickery repeated many times and so believe the concerns are legitimate.
“History tells us propagators of spam and malicious code will inevitably attempt to play on the public’s emotions and curiosity around these events and attempt to use them to exploit computer users,” said Dave Cowings, Senior Manager at Symantec Security Response.
Symantec has seen spam related to the deaths so far, but none of yet with malicious code. The company expects to see spam with subject lines related to the deaths. Those will likely contain offers to peddle fake medicines or fake antivirus software. Symantec also expects “search engine poisoning campaigns” that inject malicious sites into the top search engine results related to the deaths. McAfee has a free “site advisor” tool that offers advice about unknown search result links that could lead to malware.
Tweets and social networking messages can also contain malware.
McAfee warned in a blog post that pass-around emails about the deaths could contain code. And whatever you do, don’t click on the emails that say “pictures of dead Michael Jackson.”