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8/27/2008
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Spammers Use 'Hijacked' Babies To Lure Victims

The social engineering campaign includes an attached file, purportedly a photo of the recipient's child, but which is, of course, malware.

As part of their ongoing experiments to see which outlandish claims can dupe e-mail recipients into opening malicious messages, spammers have apparently taken to ransoming babies.

As noted by researchers at message security company Sophos, spammers have launched a social engineering campaign in which the sender claims to have "hijacked" the recipient's baby.

"We have hijacked your baby but you must pay once to us $50,000," the ransom message says, with a sentence structure that suggests further study of English grammar might be warranted. "The details we will send later..."

The attached file, purportedly a photo of the recipient's child, is, of course, malware. Sophos identifies it as Troj/Resex-Fam.

"There's no other way of putting it -- this attack is sick," wrote Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos, in an online post. "Hackers have no qualms about exploiting a family's natural instinct to defend its most vulnerable members. Hopefully people will pause before opening the attachment, but the reflex action of some may be to click first and think later."

This is not the first time online scammers have resorted to such tactics. In February, the FBI reiterated previous warnings about a long-standing spam campaign that threatens the recipient with death if payment isn't made. The threat, said the FBI, is a hoax.

That's not to say extortion and kidnapping aren't real problems. In many parts of the world, like Mexico, such crimes regularly make the headlines. But people making general threats via e-mail, without any reference to the recipient's identity or circumstances, are probably more interested in stealing personal information than infants.

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