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New Hacker Campaign Targets Holiday Trending Topics On Twitter To Spread Malware, According To PandaLabs

Hackers are capitalizing on holiday-themed words and phrases to direct users to malicious websites
ORLANDO, Fla., December 2, 2010—PandaLabs, Panda Security’s anti-malware laboratory, today announced that cyber-criminals are exploiting Twitter to spread malware using festive-themed messages. Using methods akin to Black Hat SEO techniques, hackers are taking advantage of trending topics to position malware distribution campaigns. As the holiday period has begun, topics such as “Advent calendar,” “Hanukkah” or even “Grinch,” are among the most popular subjects used by hackers to entice users.

Thousands of tweets have been launched using holiday-related phrases, such as “Nobody cares about Hanukkah,” or “Shocking video of the Grinch,” along with short URLs pointing to malicious websites. To see an example of a tweet like this, please visit:

Users who click the link will be taken to a page that infects systems with false codecs. These exploit a security hole in PDF files (CVE-2010-2883) and try to trick users into downloading a codec that is really a downloader Trojan, which in turn downloads more malware onto the compromised computer. You can see this image here:

In addition to subjects related to Christmas, cyber-criminals are using other hot topics to spread their creations, including the Sundance festival, the AIDS campaign, the Carling Cup and tweets about the actor Morgan Freeman.

According to Luis Corrons, Technical Director of PandaLabs, “Social networks are becoming increasingly popular among hackers as a vehicle for spreading malware. Facebook and Twitter are commonly exploited with malicious intent, giving their ever-increasing number of users the false sense of security that they’re safe posting content on these sites. This is why the number of clicks, and therefore infections, tends to be very high.”

Keep your computer safe this Christmas

With the increased risk over the holiday period, PandaLabs offers users a series of practical security tips for using social media:

1) Don't click suspicious links from non-trusted sources. This should apply to messages received through Twitter, through other social networks and even via email.

2) If you click on the links, check the target page. If you don't recognize it, close your browser.

3) Even if you don't see anything strange in the target page, but you are asked to download something, don't accept.

4) Install all available operating system updates and patches. Cyber-criminals are particularly skilled at exploiting critical vulnerabilities in operating systems and commonly used applications. Computer users are often silently redirected to a website with a carefully crafted malicious payload that leaves the computer infected with data-stealing malware or extortion-based threats. In addition to updating your system, PandaLabs strongly advises people to update Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader and Java software, which are all commonly targeted by cyber criminals.

5) If you do download or install an executable file and the PC starts to launch messages or behaves strangely, there is probably malware on your computer. In this case, you should check your computer with a free online scanner such as ActiveScan, available at:

6) As a general rule, make sure your computer is well protected to ensure that you are not exposed to the risk of infection from any malicious code. You can protect yourself with the new, free Panda Cloud Antivirus solution (

About PandaLabs

Since 1990, its mission has been to detect and eliminate new threats as rapidly as possible to offer our clients maximum security. To do so, PandaLabs has an innovative automated system that analyzes and classifies thousands of new samples a day and returns automatic verdicts (malware or goodware). This system is the basis of collective intelligence, Panda Security’s new security model which can even detect malware that has evaded other security solutions.

Currently, 99.4 percent of malware detected by PandaLabs is analyzed through this system of collective intelligence. This is complemented through the work of several teams, each specialized in a specific type of malware (viruses, worms, Trojans, spyware, phishing, spam, etc), who work 24/7 to provide global coverage. This translates into more secure, simpler and more resource-friendly solutions for clients.

More information is available in the PandaLabs blog:

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