Flight MH17: Facebook scammers exploit plane crash

Jul 22, 2014

Facebook pages set up in the names of flight MH17 victims link to porn sites and malware


Online scammers are using the MH17 tragedy to attract people to pornographic websites, infect computers with malware and gather private phone numbers, internet security experts have warned.

A number of fake Facebook pages, dedicated to the memories of victims of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash, have been found containing links to porn websites, the BBC reports. A torrent of tweets purporting to provide news about the downed plane also offer similar spam links.

Richard Cox, the chief intelligence officer of anti-spam body Spamhaus, told the BBC that spammers often target popular hashtags and news items.

"It is a fairly rapid and predictable response by the individuals behind it. They are all to make money. There is no compassion involved," Cox said.

One of the fake pages set up after the MH17 went down on Thursday last week was a Facebook community page dedicated to crash-victim Liam Sweeney. The page had a single link to a video titled "Video Camera Caught the moment plane MH17 Crash over Ukraine". When the link was opened, it took users to a pornographic website.

Six other pages named after victims of the Boeing 777 that came down over eastern Ukraine were found to be click-fraud schemes, where visitors are shown a link that, when clicked bombards the user with pop-up ads for online gambling sites "and other shady services", the International Business Times reports. The pages have now been closed down by Facebook.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, three of the fake pages were set up in the names of children who were killed in the crash.

Alastair MacGibbon, the director of the University of Canberra's Centre for Internet Safety, said such click-fraud schemes were "extremely lucrative" for criminal groups, who profited from sending traffic to specific sites. The scams can also infect computers with malware, he said.

Some of the fake pages asked users to verify their age with a phone call. "Whoever it is now has your caller ID and you could get a lot of nuisance calls," said Cox.

A spokesperson for Facebook told the BBC: "We are disabling these profiles as soon as we are made aware of them. We encourage people to block those responsible and report suspicious behaviour to our team of experts via our reporting buttons so that we can quickly take the appropriate action."

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