Scareware Purveyors, Spammers, and Crooks Take Advantage of Haiti Earthquake

haitinatlpalance

The worst earthquake in that area for 200 years, a magnitude 7.0, hit Haiti late Tuesday afternoon leaving areas like the capital of Port-au-Prince in ruins and many people in need. Predictably people are looking for ways to help and are using Google to search for relief agencies that can take donations to help the affected. Bad actors have taken advantage of this by engaging in search engine poisoning: taking over existing web sites and using techniques that boost search ranking. These sites are then used as redirects to sites that install malicious software using scareware tactics on user’s PC’s, such as rogue antivirus software. Bad actors have also set up fake donation web sites. Finally they employ communication mechanisms such as Spam e-mail, Twitter messages, and related electronic communication methods in order to direct users to these web sites.

Scareware

Clicking any of highlighted sites’ urls (search results) shown below redirects the user to a browser dialog box suggesting the user has viruses on their PC. It then suggests a system’s check and opens up a scareware dialog. Scareware is software sold or downloaded via creating a perception on the part of the user of a usually non-existent threat to said user that is typically non-functional or malicious.

Performing a search for “haiti earthquake donations” will yield the results shown:

Compromised web sites showing up in Google search.

Compromised web sites showing up in Google search.


Here is the dialog that shows up after the redirect from the hijacked web site to the malicious one:

Scareware dialog box upon redirect.

Scareware dialog box upon redirect.


Scareware dialog after selecting

Scareware dialog after selecting Ok or Cancel


This is not at all unusual, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Tsunami in Asia in 2004, and any other natural disaster usually sees the same kind of activities.

Video Demonstrating Malicious Antivirus Install

So you don’t have to do it yourself, clicking on any of the links above redirects the user to malicious web sites like scan-now24.com (hosted in Kansas City, MO) and full-pc-scanner1.com (hosted in Zuid-Holland, Netherlands). Here is a demonstration of the entire flow end to end, and the rogue anti-virus attempting to install on a PC.


Search Engine Poisoning?

If you look at the Google search above, the result in red is a take over of the web site sevencycles.com, which appears to be a bicycle retailer. The site currently redirects to full-pc-scanner1.com like the others, but earlier today was showing up like this:

Search engine poisoning

Search engine poisoning


The source of this page is a mess of injected content around the existing sevencycles bicycle information, most of it internal links to the site with name value pairs referencing Haiti and links to other site’s images of Haiti.

HTML source of the broken sevencycles.com site from earlier today.

HTML source of the broken sevencycles.com site from earlier today.


Bizarrely some of the injected text refers to what appears to be Wyclef Jean’s legitimate charitable effort: “text “Yele” to 501501 to donate $5″. as well as the real address of the Lutheran World Relief – Haiti Earthquake, P.O. Box 17061. This is likely just content grabbed related to the Haiti relief efforts to push up the site rank in search engines like Google.

Spam E-mail

This morning e-mails such as the one below noticed by Symantec started showing up in people’s inboxes, this one purportedly from the British Red Cross with the subject: “Make Your Donations Now,”. Aside from a few grammatical problems and the fact that charities would not use Western Union to accept donations, the note looks fairly legitimate, thus you can see how someone might be fooled.

British Red Cross Spam E-mail

British Red Cross Spam E-mail


Fraudulent Donation Sites

A number of web site domains have been registered following the tragedy. Some of these may have been registered for legitimate means, but many are being parked (reserved), and a few will end up hosting malicious content or fake donation sites.

A longer list of examples is below in Appendix A, here are the first five from that list:

haiti7earthquake.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haitianaid.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haitiandisasterrelief.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haitianearthquake2010.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haitianearthquakeaid.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010

The Better Business Bureau has a portal that allows you to check out charities before making any donation.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation also put out a press release this morning, warning of “Haitian Earthquake Relief related fraud”. The release contains this advice:

  • Do not respond to any unsolicited (spam) incoming e-mails, including clicking links contained within those messages.
  • Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as surviving victims or officials asking for donations via e-mail or social networking sites.
  • Verify the legitimacy of nonprofit organizations by utilizing various Internet-based resources that may assist in confirming the group’s existence and its nonprofit status rather than following a purported link to the site.
  • Be cautious of e-mails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files because the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.
  • Make contributions directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf to ensure contributions are received and used for intended purposes.
  • Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions: Providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.

Source: http://www.fbi.gov/pressrel/pressrel10/earthquake011310.htm

So Where do I Donate?

Valid charities include:

Finally

Nothing new here, a newsworthy event such as a natural disaster will bring spammers, scareware purveyors, and other fraudsters out of the woodwork every time. Use expert sites such as the Better Business Bureau to vet charities, understand that a legitimate charity would not accept money through strange vehicles like a money order, and best of all just contribute to a well known charity you are already familiar with.

Real anti-virus vendors will try to scare you, but in regular advertisements not browser dialog boxes telling you that you have a virus installed. The rogue anti-virus industry is disturbingly successful, its important to purchase anti-virus from a well known vendor, or use one of the couple good free solutions if nothing else (Avast, AVG, et al.). If you’re a home user, just set it to auto-update. If you’re a business, have a process in place for rolling out new AV signatures or if you are unwilling or don’t have the right expertise, offload this to a good managed service provider.

Appendix A – List of Recently Registered Domains

haiti7earthquake.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haitianaid.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haitiandisasterrelief.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haitianearthquake2010.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haitianearthquakeaid.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haitianearthquakeaid.net   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haitianearthquake.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haitianearthquakefund.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haitianearthquakerelief.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haitianhero.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haitianrelief.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haitidisaster.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haitidonations.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haitiearthquake2010.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haitiearthquakeaid.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haiti-earthquake.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haitiearthquake.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haitiearthquakefund.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haiti-earthquake.net   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haitiearthquake.net   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haitiearthquakenews.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haitiearthquakereleaf.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haitiearthquakerelief2010.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haitiearthquakerelief.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haitiearthquakerelieffund.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haitiearthquakerelieffund.net   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haitiearthquakerelief.net   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haitiearthquakeupdates.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haitihelp.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haiti-in-earthquake.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haitiquake.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haitiquakefund.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haitiquakerelief.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haitirelief2010.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haiti-relief.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haitirelieffund.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haitiringtones.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haititsunami.com   Creation Date: 12-jan-2010
haiti2010quake.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haiti7aid.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitiaftershock.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haiti-aid.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitiaidsociety.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitiancharities.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitiancharity.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitiandtps.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitianearthquakeappeal.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitianearthquakeappeal.net   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitianearthquake.net   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitianearthquakerelief.net   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitianguanye.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitianphotoalbum.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitianquake.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitianquakerelief.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitianrecovery.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitianrelieffund.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitianrelief.net   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitianrescue.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitiansurvivors.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitiansurvivors.net   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitianvictims.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitianvictims.net   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitianvolunteers.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitiassist.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitiatlanta.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitibracelets.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitibreakingnews.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haiticanada.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haiticharity.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haiticharters.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haiticonstructionjobs.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haiticrises.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitidevastation.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitidisaster2010.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haiti-disaster.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitidisasterfund.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haiti-disaster.net   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitidisaster.net   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitidonation.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitidonation.net   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haiti-donations.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitiearth.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitiearthquakeappeal.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitiearthquakeappeal.net   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitiearthquakedisaster.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitiearthquakedonate.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitiearthquakedonations.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haiti-earthquake-help.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitiearthquakehelp.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitiearthquakepictures.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitiearthquakerecoveryfund.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haiti-earthquake-relief.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haiti-earthquake-relief.net   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitiearthquakeresources.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitiearthquakes.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitieq.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haiti-farm-land.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitifeedthechildren.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitifoundation.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haiti-funds.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitifunds.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haiti-help.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitihelp.net   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitihiphop.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitihoax.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitiinfocenter.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitijanuary122010.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitilifeexpectancy.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitimemorial.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitineedsus.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitineedsus.net   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitineedsyourhelp.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitionearthquake.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitionfund.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitipix.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitipix.net   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitiplunge.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitipourdemain.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitipulse.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitiquake2010.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitiquakehelp.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haiti-quake-rescue.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitiquakes.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitiquakevictims.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitiquilt.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitirebuild.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitireconstruction.net   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitirecovers.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitireliefaid.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitireliefbracelets.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitireliefkc.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitirelief.net   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitireliefparty.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitirescue.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitirescuefund.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitirescuemission.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitisearthquake.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitisecurity.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitiservice.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitishakes.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitishirt.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitishirts.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitishock2010.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitisos.net   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitisurvivors.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitisurvivorsvideo.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitisurvivorsvideos.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitisurvivorvideo.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitisurvivorvideos.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haititemporaryprotectivestatus.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haititremor2010.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haititremor.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitiupdate.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitiupdates.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitivictims.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitiville.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitivolunteers.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitivox.com   Creation Date: 13-jan-2010
haitiaid.net   Creation Date: 14-jan-2010
haitiancasino.com   Creation Date: 14-jan-2010
haitiancasinos.com   Creation Date: 14-jan-2010
haitiandonation.com   Creation Date: 14-jan-2010
haitiboardwalk.com   Creation Date: 14-jan-2010
haiticasino.net   Creation Date: 14-jan-2010
haitigamblers.com   Creation Date: 14-jan-2010
haitigambling.com   Creation Date: 14-jan-2010
haitihello.com   Creation Date: 14-jan-2010
haitihello.net   Creation Date: 14-jan-2010
haitihilfe.com   Creation Date: 14-jan-2010
haiti-info.net   Creation Date: 14-jan-2010
haiti-lavi.com   Creation Date: 14-jan-2010
haitilavi.com   Creation Date: 14-jan-2010

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