Legal

Scammers jump on MH370, taking advantage of news about the missing aircraft

Yolanda Redrup /

Australia’s consumer watchdog is warning the public to beware of a scam targeting those interested in the latest developments of missing Malaysian airlines flight MH370.

For almost two weeks the missing plane has captivated the attention of people worldwide as search crews across the globe hunt for debris of the plane, with the latest efforts focused on a section of the Indian Ocean 2500km from Perth.

Scammers are now capitalising on the likely tragedy, sending fake tweets, email messages and Facebook posts with supposed breaking news about the missing plane which infect computer systems with malware.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission deputy chair Delia Rickard is warning businesses if their security systems aren’t up to scratch, they could fall victim.

“The first thing businesses should do is ensure they have a good firewall in place and their systems are up to date with the latest anti-virus and malware software,” she told SmartCompany.

With so many Australians awaiting news of the missing plane, employees or business owners could unwittingly infect their work computer system with malware by clicking on a fake story.

“If the business thinks its security has been compromised, it should run a virus check and if in doubt contact its security provider,” Rickard says.

However, Rickard says it’s a “cat and mouse game” between security software providers and scammers.

“Software providers are constantly trying to stay a step ahead of the scammers, but there are times when the scammers get ahead,” she says.

The ACCC has received reports of an email and social media message being sent with random links supposedly to videos of MH370.

The messages include text which reads: “Malaysian Plane (MH-370) Has Been Found Near Bermuda Triangle. BBC News: Recent Video Released!”

Rickard says when a person clicks on the link they are taken to a seemingly legitimate news site branded with logos to watch the video, but to view it they’re asked to download software to view it in the correct format.

At this point the scammers have either set up the malware to be downloaded immediately when the person clicks on the link to view the footage, or the ads appearing on the site could be infected.

Once the malware is installed, scammers use it to gain access to a person or business’s personal information including financial details and identification.

Rickard says these types of scams have occurred before, such as during the Boston Marathon bomb tragedy and at the 100th anniversary of ANZAC Day.

“There is no opportunity scammers won’t take advantage of. If you receive a message out of the blue, be it via Facebook, email or social media which contains links and you don’t know the person who sent it, it could be a scam,” she says.

“If you’re interested in the latest information, go to a legitimate news website, they will be onto it as fast as anyone else.”

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