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Terrorist Attacks, Hoaxes and Malware

Posted by on December 4, 2015.

My colleagues at ESET Ireland drew my attention to an article by Craig Charles on “Brutal Terrorist Attack” hoaxes go viral.

I haven’t seen any of these, or the similar hoaxes regarding fake ‘disputes between drug dealers’ that were apparently spreading a month or two ago, but apparently these hoaxes describe fictional attacks with widespread casualties on a wide range of towns and cities in the UK and imply a terrorist connection, usually with ISIS (or whatever name you prefer to use).

The wording of a hoax message described by Charles sounds very US-oriented: after I did a little googling, I found that the story related to Gillingham that he quotes is actually borrowed from a story on the Detroit News web site. Hence the references to a Detroit radio station, Detroit locations, and the use of terms like liquor store which are hardly ever used in the UK. And it does indeed refer to drug dealers rather than terrorists.

While I didn’t find specific examples of the terrorist hoax articles, I did find several articles about them. An article regarding a hoax article about an alleged attack in Swindon suggested that the site serving the article was also serving malware, and similar suggestions of ‘a virus’ have also been made about a hoax article about Bath.

These may, therefore, be examples of old-school use of sensationalist and totally made-up content meant to grab the attention of victims and lure them onto sites serving malware such as data-stealers or ransomware, but I have no way at present to confirm that authoritatively.

Still, it’s to be expected that unpleasant people will take advantage of our all-too-rational fears of terrorists to fabricate stories that may be spread via social media, and may persuade people to open sites with malicious content.

David Harley


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