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Cybercriminals exploit Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett deaths

Security researchers report malicious spam, poisoned search engine results just hours after the deaths of pop star Michael Jackson and actress Farrah Fawcett

As expected, online criminals were quick to exploit the deaths of pop icon Michael Jackson and actress Farrah Fawcett, security researchers said.

In only about eight hours after Jackson's death, researchers at Sophos Plc. said they saw they first wave of spam messages exploiting the shocking news in the subject line and body. The spam messages claim to have vital information about Jackson's death and can steal email addresses if the recipient responds, Sophos reported.

Websense Inc. researchers on Friday said they detected malicious spam that appeared to offer a link to a YouTube video of Jackson but actually sends the recipient to a Trojan Downloader hosted on a compromised website.

Soon after Fawcett's death, cybercriminals were poisoning search engine results with malicious links exploiting the news, according to Trend Micro Inc. Some of the links redirect users to other URLs and eventually a bogus antivirus download, and one infection chain used techniques to evade researchers, the company said.

"Users are advised to exercise extreme caution in searching for related news and information surrounding the deaths of these celebrities," Macky Cruz of Trend Micro said in a blog post.

He noted that one of the more famous "blackhat SEO manipulation" attacks that Trend Micro has documented came shortly after actor Heath Ledger's death in 2008.

Security researchers warned on Thursday that they expected fraudsters to exploit the deaths of Jackson and Fawcett. "Every time a disaster happens or news about some celebrity reaches the media, malware writers try to take advantage of it," Guilherme Venere of McAfee wrote in a blog post.

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