Hackers are profiting from tragedies like the Martin Place siege by fooling computer users with malicious emails, experts warn.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has issued a warning after scammers recently sent a virus-laced email with the subject line ‘ISIS attacks in Sydney’.
Such a provocative heading is a devious method designed to dupe users into opening the dangerous message. These attacks, which can hand over your banking details, photos and other sensitive files to hackers, are called ‘phishing’ scams.
ACMA internet security programs manager Bruce Matthews told The New Daily that exploiting high-profile events like terror attacks has been a “very common ploy” used by cyber criminals.
“They rely on social engineering using various tactics to get computer users to take actions they normally wouldn’t take,” Mr Matthews said.
“It’s been used for many years. It’s continued to be used because it must work.”
Filter out deadly emails
Users should apply common sense when they are reviewing their emails, Mr Matthews advised, as almost any tragic event can be misused.
“It could be something like Cyclone Katrina, the Boston Bombing, a tsunami, a death of a celebrity, or major accidents or incidents such as the recent Malaysian airlines incidents,” Mr Matthews said.
“If the email looks suspicious, they should delete it immediately.”
Hackers can also impersonate a trusted institution. For example, the recent ISIS-related attack looked like it was sent by a very popular Australian news website.
If you ever receive an email asking you to click a link and log in, be very wary. Instead, go directly to the website itself and log in there.
Anti-virus software and operating systems should also be kept up-to-date, Mr Matthews advised.
There are some who think that Apple products, such as Macintosh laptops, are virus-free, which is a dangerous assumption.
“There have been viruses identified on Apple devices, so they also need to be vigilant and of course phishing emails are independent of operating systems,” he said.
Thankfully, Mr Matthews was not aware of anyone caught out by the Sydney siege emails, but computer users might not always be so lucky.
The best advice might be to treat any terror-related emails with a healthy dose of scepticism.