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Spammers exploiting SoCal fires

It’s inevitable: Whenever there’s a disaster, online scammers try to exploit the situation. Randy Abrams, director of technical education at security software vendor Eset, said he received an email Wednesday that purported to offer news about the devastating wildfires in Southern California but turned out to be spam advertising Viagra.

Abrams fully expects there to be a deluge of email scams exploiting the fires. These emails will either have links or attachments that download malware onto a user’s machine or will pretend to be charitable organizations raising money for fire victims, he said in an interview.

“The Storm worm creators are good at manipulating current news,” he said. “Even though the Storm worm seems to be declining, it’s still affecting a significant number of PCs and this is the kind of headline that will get exploited.”

In a blog posting on Eset’s Web site Wednesday, Abrams warned users not to respond to emails soliciting donations, including those from legitimate charities such as the American Red Cross. Those wanting to donate should look up the phone number or Web site of the Red Cross rather than using any information in the email, he wrote.

Eset, which has its U.S. headquarters in San Diego, is assisting employees affected by the fires. Some employees have had to evacuate their homes, said Abrams, who works remotely in Seattle.

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