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Cybercriminals Leverage Boston Marathon Bombing, Texas Explosion in Malware Attacks

Cybercriminals are taking advantage of news about the bombings at the Boston Marathon and Wednesday’s explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas in an onslaught of malicious emails infecting users with malware.

Cybercriminals are taking advantage of news about the bombings at the Boston Marathon and Wednesday’s explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas in an onslaught of malicious emails infecting users with malware.

According to a number of security vendors, the spam campaign started early this week in the aftermath of the attack at the Boston Marathon Monday afternoon. According to Craig Williams, a technical leader at Cisco Systems, the spam campaign was traced to two botnets.

“The spam messages claim to contain news concerning the Boston Marathon bombing,” Williams blogged. “The spam messages contain a link to a site that claims to have videos of explosions from the attack. Simultaneously, links to these sites were posted as comments to various blogs.”

“The link directs users to a webpage that includes iframes that load content from several YouTube videos plus content from an attacker-controlled site,” he continued. “Reports indicate the attacker-controlled sites host malicious.jar files that can compromise vulnerable machines.”

Some of the messages researchers have seen came with subject lines such as “2 Explosions at Boston Marathon” and “Aftermath to explosion at Boston Marathon.”

“Clicking the link opens up a compromised Web page,” according to researchers with Symantec. “The Web page shows a series of videos of the attack site. There is an unloaded video at the bottom of the Web page that leads to (Redkit) Exploit kit which exploits various vulnerabilities on the user’s computer. Once an exploit has been successful, the user sees a popup asking them to download the file boston.avi_______.exe.”

“It’s no surprise to see that the links used in the malicious email can vary – no doubt in an attempt to avoid rudimentary email filtering but they all appear to be based in Ukraine and Latvia,” blogged Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. “If you make the mistake of clicking on the link, however, you are taken to a website which – while showing you genuine YouTube videos of the the horrific incident – attempts to infect your computer with a Windows Trojan horse that Sophos products detect as Troj/Tepfer-Q.”

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The second campaign Cisco noted exploiting interest in the bombing was spotted blasting out spam messages containing graphical HTML content disguised as breaking news alerts from CNN.

“These spam messages entice the user with a link claiming: “You have received the following link from [email protected]”,” Williams blogged. “In reality, the link takes users to a compromised website that contains an instant HTTP meta-refresh redirect to an attacker controlled site that we believe is attempting to install the Blackhole Exploit Kit (BHEK).”

The exploit kit users were also hard at work after the explosion Wednesday at a plant in West, Texas, McLennan County. In that case, the emails contained subjects such as “Texas Plant Explosion” and “Raw: Texas Explosion Injures Dozens,” according to security vendor Websense. The emails

“Clicking on the link contained inside the emails takes unsuspecting computer users to a webpage that contains a series of embedded YouTube videos,” Cluley blogged. “Harmless enough, you might think. However, the webpage also contains a 640×360 pixel iFrame, that attempts to suck in malicious content from another site, designed to infect your computer. The attack uses the Redkit exploit kit to take advantage of vulnerabilities on visiting PCs in order to infect them with malware.”

“Don’t make life easy for malicious hackers – and always go to legitimate news outlets for breaking news rather than rely upon unsolicited emails,” Cluley wrote. 

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