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Australian Prime Minister Heart Attack Trojan Email

Summary:
Fake "news report" email claims that the Australian Prime Minister has been hospitalized after a serious heart attack (Full commentary below).



Status:
False - A link in the message leads to a trojan.

Example:
Subject: Prime Minister survived a heard attack

SYDNEY - The Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard have survived a heart attack. Mr Howard, 67 years old, was at Kirribilli House in Sydney, his prime residence, when he was suddenly stricken. Mr Howard was taken to the Royal North Shore Hospital where the best surgeons of Australia are struggling for his life.

Click on the link below to get the latest information on the health of the Prime Minister:

The Australian - keeping the nation informed

[Link to malicious website removed]

(text continues)



Commentary:
This email message claims that the Australian Prime Minister, Mr John Howard, has been stricken with a heart attack and and is in a serious condition in a Sydney hospital. However, the message is simply a ruse to trick recipients into clicking a link that can download a trojan onto their computer. Mr Howard has not suffered a heart attack.

The link supposedly opens a page on "The Australian" newspaper website that contains the "latest information on the health of the Prime Minister". However, clicking the link will automatically download a trojan before displaying a genuine "404 - Page not found" page. Thus the user may believe that there was just a harmless error in the link supplied and not realize that the trojan has been installed in his or her computer.

Once installed, the trojan can give a hacker control of the infected computer and harvest sensitive information such as passwords and bank account details.

This message is just one in a long line of malicious emails that pose as fake news stories about political leaders or celebrities. In 2006, a fake news report about a supposed conspiracy involving US President Bush and British Prime Minister Blair contained an attached trojan. Also in 2006, a bogus story announcing the death of Russian President Vladimir Putin included a link that would install malware when clicked. Trojan emails have also falsely claimed to be reports about the capture of Osama Bin Laden and the suicide of Michael Jackson.

Users should be very cautious of any unsolicited emails that claim to be news reports about political leaders, famous people or important current events. Never click on links in such emails. If the information in such messages is true, it should be quite easy to confirm by searching online news sources and other media such as newspapers or television news.

Trojans and other malware attacks are increasing significantly, and hackers commonly use fake news reports to launch them. Users should ensure that they have security software protecting their computer, including up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and an Internet firewall. They should also ensure that their operating system and other software always has the latest security updates available.

References:
"AUSCERT ALERT - Prime Minister heart attack" trojan
Howard heart-attack email carries virus

Last updated: 26th February 2006
First published: 26th February 2006

Write-up by Brett M. Christensen