Security Warning: Japanese earthquake scams will send tremors through the web

This morning we woke to the shock of one of the biggest earthquakes in recorded history hitting Japan. While I am writing this, the world is still holding their breath in fear of imminent tsunamis. And while information and damage estimates are still rather basic right now, based on our experience in the past, the 8.9 magnitude earthquake will not be felt only in immediate and tsunami damage, but will also be abused online by people without any conscience, as all such catastrophes have been so far, to make financial gain for themselves.

With every major natural disaster in the past, be it Indian ocean tsunamis, hurricane Katrina, the Haiti earthquake, the recent Christchurch earthquake, several waves of online fraud have appeared. Here are some more common ones:

1. “Shocking news” or “Shocking video” malicious spam. Sent either by email or through links in social media such as Facebook or Twitter, it promises to show some specific footage or reveal some more news about the disaster. Clicking on it can have several consequences, from propagating more spam, to getting infected with malware.

2. Search Engine Optimisation poisoning. Since cybercriminals know people will use search engines to look for news on the topic, they will fill their malicious sites with buzzwords, such as “Japanese earthquake”, “tsunamis”, etc, to lure visitors to their sites, where they can get infected with drive-by malware.

3. Charity and relief scams. After the initial shock passes, many charity scams spring up, preying on people’s nobility and willingness to help those in need.

As always we recommend the following:

DO NOT click on social media and email “shocking news” or “shocking video” links.
DO NOT go to untrusted websites for news.
DO NOT send money to unchecked charities and fundraisers.

DO follow only known news sites for news on the disaster.
DO send charity contributions only to well known and trusted charitable organisations.

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