Romanian President “dead”: Latest hoax spreads malware

A recently discovered spam wave uses the Romanian president’s image to help spread malware. The unsolicited e-mail relies on a classic combination of social engineering tricks: promised photo content and attention-grabbing events.

This is only one example in a longer series of malware dissemination schemes using celebrity or public figure baits. One such recent spam wave promised to show video or photo content depicting the death of Al Qaida leader, Osama bin Laden. Another breaking news event put to the same malicious use is the incident involving Barack Obama’s car, which took place during the USA President’s visit to Ireland.

Using celebrities and sensational stories as bait for downloading malware is a popular tactic, and highlights how the social engineering element of a scam is often key to whether it succeeds or fails..

The malware component embedded in this particular message is highly complex, and it enables the installation of a bot on the victim’s computer. Having secured control over the respective machine, the cybercriminal can download files from it, access the victim’s private information as well as track the victim’s keystrokes. This would eventually result in the theft of essential data, such as passwords, credit card series or other confidential data.

The Romanian version of these celebrity-themed scams also boasts a very interesting source, namely Antena 3, one of the most popular TV stations in Romania. The spam message is spoofing one of the TV station’s e-mail services, which adds to the credibility of the scam.

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As leader of the Bitdefender Online Threats Lab, Alexandru Catalin Cosoi's work sets the agenda for the development of new security threat countermeasures. Over the last 6 years, Alexandru has acquired a thorough understanding of key areas of technology.