Tiger Woods return sparks spam campaignBrian Yoder, vice-president of engineering for the anti-virus and spyware firm CyberDefender, told me in a phone interview that his company is predicting a cyber criminal event when Tiger Woods returned to golf at the Masters this week. Why? Because celebrity names and their misdeeds provide spammers and other Internet scum the chance to play on your curiosity to convince you to respond to their e-mailings. I'm sure the sexual nature of Tiger's shortcoming will play a role in the e-mails that your spam filters will (hopefully) catch.

Yoder cautions that most scammers will try to get you to open a file containing their malware by using one of two tactics; offering to show you a video if you "open" their "video player," or by warning you that you have already contracted a virus and offering to rid your computer of it if you "click here."

The lesson? Don't click here in an e-mail, no matter how famous the celebrity and how scandalous the supposed video. In other words, you're an idiot if you click on any variation on "Tiger sex tape". In fact, even if it were the real thing, you'd still be an idiot to click on it, imho.

Yoder makes an excellent suggestion. If you want to know about a hot subject that piques your interest, don't Google it. As wonderful as it is, the search engine is gamed 24/7 by scammers and inevitably some of the sites that appear as recommendations are going to be scammer sites. If you want video, he suggests going directly to YouTube or another reputable site. For news, go to a dependable source like ABC News or the Washington Post or WalletPop (blush).

And when it comes to celebrity names? Look out for proper spelling; any version of a misspelled Alicia Keys will probably lead you into dark territory. Also, if you see a character in a film Google a topic (for example, a character in one of the Twilight films Googles "Cold one Apotamkin Quileute Legends"), you can expect to find scammers jumping on that term and laying a trap for you so they can suck you dry.

I asked Yoder how these scammers were able to get their sites to appear on Google. He explained that the use several tactics:
  • Create fake blogs that link to the site being pimped
  • Syndicate traffic from real sites
  • Create comment spam (those annoying comments that obviously exist only to put in links to a scam site)
  • And, most interestingly, by getting content up on newsworthy events before the legitimate press does.
Scammers can do this because they have no integrity to worry about. In fact, Yoder told me, they sometimes post stories about events before the events even happen. The death of Ted Kennedy is the example he used, which was announced on scam blogs well before he actually passed away. I wouldn't be surprised if some of these sites are already reporting that Tiger won the Masters, although he doesn't tee off until Thursday.

Interesting in learning more? See Tiger's Sex Tape.

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