Top Cybercrime Mishaps of 2010
In 2010, cybercriminals had a field day using popular search terms to lure in victims. From politicians to pop stars -- if a person was making the headlines, there was a good chance that entering their name into a search bar would land you on a website locked and loaded with malware.
But curious Web surfers weren’t the only ones preyed upon this year. The security vendor PC Tools recently released its list of the most memorable cybercrime incidents tied to popular search terms, and it turns out some very high-profile people were not only used as bait, but also had their very own computers hacked.
Justin Bieber and his North Korean tour
A celebrity who did a significant amount of damage – online, at least – was Justin Bieber. Google’s “Zeitgeist 2010: How the world searched” report placed the singer atop the list of the most searched-for entertainers.
Along with millions of teenage girls, hackers also flocked to the Bieber phenomenon in 2010. Several Twitter and Facebook scam campaigns, including one claiming to have video of Bieber hitting a girl, took advantage of the teen sensation’s rabid fan base to drum up big bad business.
And online tricksters even got the chance to play a prank on Bieber. In July, a site called Faxo.com organized what people thought was a contest that let Bieber’s fans determine which country he should visit on his “My World” tour. The members of 4Chan, a notorious online forum often used by hackers to organize mass cyberattacks, sprung into action, encouraging people to vote for North Korea. Their efforts worked, and North Korea won the poll.
It turned out the contest was not sanctioned by Bieber’s camp, but that information came after several news outlets ran stories that Bieber would be bringing his tour to the communist country.
Lady Gaga and Ke$ha hacked
What year-end list of any sort would be complete without some mention of Lady Gaga?
In this case, Gaga and pop singer Ke$ha, along with 48 other pop stars, had their computers hacked, resulting in stolen e-mails and bank card information. Along with the personal data, hackers also illegally downloaded unreleased songs and stole photographs and video clips from the mega stars.
Scams show no mercy for the unemployed
In 2010, the national unemployment rate reached nearly 10 percent, and a particularly cruel cyberscam began circulating in December preying on the vulnerable demographic of people looking for work.
The scam messages, which included titles such as “Earn $379 Per Day working from home on the Internet,” took the usual online hoax to the next level, disguised as news articles from credible sources including CNBC, Yahoo!, ABC and CNN.
The work-from-home scam was so dangerous because by nature it had a captive and often desperate audience.
Eric Klein, product conversion manager for PC Tools, told SecurityNewsDaily, “There’s a good chunk of the population looking for job opportunities, and this is targeting people that are already vulnerable.”
Harry Potter scam magically makes identities disappear
Fans of the “Harry Potter” movies weren’t the only ones eagerly awaiting the late November release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” the penultimate film in the J.K. Rowling blockbuster franchise.
A wave of fraudulent messages hit the Web prior to the film’s Nov. 19 release, each offering a free download of the film in exchange for personal information such as credit card numbers. Some of the rogue offers even promised a free iPad, while others prompted users to download a toolbar that, unbeknownst to them, infected their systems with malware that collected passwords.
Even the hackers can’t stand 'Jersey Shore's' Angelina
Love her or hate her, Angelina Pivarnick of the smash(ed) reality show “Jersey Shore” – and the top image search of 2010 -- probably didn’t deserve to be the victim of a cybercrime.
But that’s what happened in February, when a 15-year-old girl got control of the Staten Island “star’s” Facebook account.
And while her search stats may have soared, her public image only went downhill from there – Angelina eventually left the show at the end of season two and was not invited back for the upcoming season.
A presidential breach
Not even the Secret Service could stop cyberthieves from getting a hold of the commander-in-chief’s Twitter account.
In March, French police arrested a man for hacking into President Barack Obama’s Twitter account. The thief admitted he accessed Obama’s account simply by guessing his password.
To avoid falling into the same trap, PC Tools offers a free “Secure Password Generator” on its site, www.pctools.com.
'Twilight' brings out cyber bloodsuckers
As with “Harry Potter,” cybercriminals were ready to feast on the popularity generated by the “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.”
Leading up to its June 30 release, several malicious campaigns made their way around the Web preying on the widespread anticipation of the film. The antivirus maker Norton reported that more than 50 percent of the Web pages yielded by searching movie-related search terms – such as “Twilight,” Twilight Eclipse,” “Rob Pattinson” – contained malicious software.
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