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Bin Laden
Bin Laden's Death Brings High Traffic -- and Malware

By Jennifer LeClaire
May 2, 2011 11:15AM

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Traffic on the Internet spiked on the news of terrorist Osama bin Laden's death, but the news also brought malware. An observer reported 4,000 tweets per second as President Obama announced bin Laden's death. And within hours, Zscaler spotted malicious sites moving to take advantage of bin Laden's demise with decoy news and images.

The Internet is abuzz about the death of terrorist Osama bin Laden. Indeed, from news sites to social media -- and even to malware -- traffic is spiking across the World Wide Web.

The surge started when President Barack Obama began an address from the White House late Sunday night. Google Trends ranked "osama bin laden dead" at the highest level for trending topics: Volcanic. And a Facebook page proclaiming that "Osama Bin Laden is DEAD" had 261,075 likes at midday Monday.

Social Media's Role

"During President Obama's speech following news of Osama bin Laden's death, Twitter reported that there were 4,000 tweets per second," said Jake Wengroff, global director of social media at Frost & Sullivan. "This is extraordinary, because Twitter usually witnesses 500 tweets per second."

Besides the storm of social media and text messages giving everyone's thanks and joy that the most-wanted terrorist is dead, Wengroff said what was perhaps most curious is that there was actually an individual, Sohaib Athar, tweeting live from Abbottabad, Pakistan, as @ReallyVirtual. He reported a series of helicopter flybys and unwittingly captured the U.S. raid on bin Laden's compound, Wengroff noted.

"He became an instant superstar," Wengroff said. He suggested people read his tweets and how he has asked people, including news agencies, to stop contacting him.

"This has and will continue to be the trend going forward -- with natural disasters, unexpected tragedies, and the like," Wengroff said. "We can all expect to read real, live tweets and messages from people on the ground who beat Reuters and the Associated Press to the punch."

Terrible Malware

Beyond social media, malware connected to bin Laden is also making its way across the Internet. Within hours of the announcement of his death, Zscaler was seeing malicious sites emerge to capitalize on the news.

"One Spanish-language site displays a purported photo of a murdered Osama bin Laden and includes a story about the U.S.-led operation," Zscaler security analyst Michael Sutton wrote on the company's blog. "Farther down the page, the reader is presented with a Flash Player window with a message indicating that the user must first update a VLC plug-in, which is a popular media player, in order to view the video."

Clicking on the link downloads a file titled XvidSetup.exe. Sutton said this file is actually a popular adware tool known as hotbar. At present, 19 of 41 antivirus engines are blocking the file.

"Sadly, there will be no shortage of scams taking advantage of this historic global news," Sutton says. "Users should use caution any time a site claims to be offering video or photos related to this news."

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