Attackers drop CNN in favor of MSNBC in malware ploy

Share this article:
Updated on Wednesday, Aug. 13 at 6:15 p.m. EST

Phishers on Wednesday decided to change the channel, so to speak, when they swapped CNN for MSNBC in their latest Russian Business Network-led spam campaign.

Last week, the emails claimed to include links to breaking news stories on, but when users clicked, they were delivered to a malicious site requesting they download a codec to watch a video. But trying to install the media player actually attempted to download malware to their machines.

At some point, the hoax lost its novelty, and the attackers decided to pull the plug on CNN. On Wednesday, Mikko H. Hypponen, chief research officer of anti-virus firm F-Secure, said on the company's blog that the phishers "switched the mails to look like they are now coming from MSNBC."

Initially the new scheme was still taking users to a CNN-branded page, but now the phony websites match the emails to include the MSNBC name.

"They've moved to another [name] that hasn't yet gained a whole lot of attention," Ryan Sherstobitoff, chief corporate evangelist at Panda Security, told on Wednesday.

If victims are lured to the specially crafted site, they are prompted to download a malicious executable that purportedly is an Adobe Flash plug-in, but actually is a trojan, Hypponen said.

Sherstobitoff said the trojan, in some of the attacks, is actually a rouge anti-virus solution that tries to dupe users into purchasing a subscription to it.

"It's basically scamware," he said. "All of a sudden, your machine has been take over by a parasite that says you're infected by some 2,000 viruses. They want people to feel they have all of these viruses and want people to believe the only option is to upgrade and pay for a subscription for the service, which actually doesn't deliver any value."

Infections of the CNN campaign were widespread, mostly because the virus writers were constantly changing the underlying code of the binaries, which allowed the messages to evade anti-spam filters, Sherstobitoff said. Similar success is anticipated with the MSNBC wave.

The notorious Russian Business Network is behind the attacks, he said.

Share this article:
You must be a registered member of SC Magazine to post a comment.

Sign up to our newsletters


More in News

Email promises free pizza, ensnares victims in Asprox botnet instead

Email promises free pizza, ensnares victims in Asprox ...

Cloudmark came upon an email that offers free pizza, but clicking on the link to get the coupon ends with victims being ensnared in a botnet.

Report: most orgs lacking in response team, policies to address cyber incidents

In its Q3 threat intelligence report, Solutionary learned that 75 percent of organizations it assisted had no response team or policies and procedures to address cyber incidents.

Flash redirect campaign impacts Carnegie Mellon page, leads to Angler EK

Flash redirect campaign impacts Carnegie Mellon page, leads ...

Malwarebytes found that, since early July, thousands of sites had been targeted in the campaign.