At the beginning of last week, September 27, to be exact, Cisco Security detected spam email disguised as legitimate LinkedIn messages. Cisco claims that the attack is the largest of its kind to date. It is being used to transmit the data theft malware known as the Zeus Trojan virus.
The email messages used in the attack looked like legitimate LinkedIn invitation reminders from a social media contact. Although the links appeared to be authentic, clicking on them actually drove users to a different web page. Once there, a message appeared that said “PLEASE WAITING....4 SECONDS.” That message eventually gave way to a redirect to Google.
While the redirect to Google may have made the unusual event look harmless, such could not be further from the truth. Within the four seconds prior to the Google redirect, a drive-by download occurs where the user's computer becomes infected with the Zeus Trojan. The infected computer can then be used by hackers to obtain sensitive information to access financial accounts, such as banking passwords.
The LinkedIn spam attack is not the first of its kind, but it is the largest in terms of the volume of messages distributed. At its height, Cisco reported that the attack accounted for nearly one-fourth of all the spam messages sent within a 15-minute period.
Besides its massive volume, the LinkedIn attack is also unique in terms of the focused manner in which it took place. By sending emails concerning business contacts, it's likely that the hackers behind the messages wanted to lure in business associates that were using machines in which they accessed commercial bank and other financial accounts. If the victims used those machines after being infected with the Zeus Trojan, the hackers could conceivably gain access to the funds within such accounts.
Other social networking sites besides LinkedIn have been used in the past as avenues to spread viruses as well. The Cutwail botnet is one such entity that has been behind such attacks, as it has sent spam messages in the past that impersonated social networking sites in an effort to bait unsuspecting users. To demonstrate how lucrative this practice is, the FBI reported that in 2009 more than $100 million was stolen from commercial bank accounts by hackers using similar procedures.
For more on this topic, visit http://news.cnet.com/8301-27080_3-20017971-245.html?tag=mncol;title
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