Spammers cashing in on MH370 news

PETALING JAYA - Netizens surfing the Internet for the latest news on the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane should be careful about opening links or posts on social media.

Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) chairman Datuk Moh­amed Sharil Tarmizi urged netizens to exercise caution.

"We are aware that there have been some false news or information on MH370 that are being spread via social media platforms, attached with links displaying compelling titles and pictures that may appear to entice you to find out more.

"Please be mindful before clicking on these as some may automatically distribute similar links to all your contacts and spamming them without you knowing it," he said in an interview here yesterday.

In some cases when malware was present, Mohamed Sharil said clicking on these links might also harm the users' computer or mobile device. Since the plane went missing, scammers have been creating and sharing false "breaking news", hoping to make a quick buck.

The most common fake link being shared on social media claims that the plane has been found in the Bermuda Triangle with an attach­ed fake video.

According to online portal, these scams are designed to infiltrate computers with malware which could be used to download more malware or even take control of the computer as part of a botnet.

Major security vendor Kaspersky Lab had warned netizens about such scams on its Facebook page.

"There are many pages claiming to have legitimate news about missing flight MH370. Please only trust relevant news sites," it said in a recent post.

A report on quoted malware intelligence analyst Chris Boyd as saying that the links were first seen spreading on Twitter. He said similar scams had surfaced during previous tragedies such as the 2011 Japanese tsunami.

"Anything involving a potential disaster is big money for the scammers as there's a split between clickers with a penchant for salacious content and those who simply want to know if a relative is okay," he was quoted as saying.