Posted by: David Harley | April 12, 2011

Earthquake Hoax, Ransomware, iOS Trojan

The focus of this blog seems to have moved away from out-and-out hoaxes to the more general field of fraud and deception, and from email to trendier aspects of social media.

From time to time, though, we still see hoaxes that appear to be have been launched for no reason except mischief without apparent profit (except to bolster the insecurities of the damaged people who invent them). For some reason, disasters (real and imagined) have magnetic appeal for this kind of deception, and the claim that there will be an earthquake in Auckland on April 17th, or that at any rate there is an 88% chance of such a quake in the next few days.

And 87.4703% of statistics are made up…

There is a National Earthquake Information Center in the US: it’s part of the United States Geological Survey’s (USGS) Earthquake Hazards Program.

If there is an equivalent in New Zealand, it’s unlikely that it would use the spelling Center, of course. But it’s even less likely that it would cite a newspaper as an authoritative source for further information, however good it might be. So the citing of the NZ Herald would be suspicious even if the paper hadn’t already denied any knowledge.

Hoaxes about tsunamis, earthquakes, radiation levels and so on did not start with the recent Japan or New Zealand disasters: tsunami hoaxes were reported after the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean. It’s sometimes been suggested that some such hoaxes are intended to facilitate some unpleasant activity such as getting a site evacuated to make looting easier, or selling some form of anti-radiation measure, but I’ve never seen any definitive proof of such a link.

Hat tip to Graham Cluley.

Computer World, meanwhile, reports on a Windows Trojan that claims that your Windows installation is locked and requires you to make an expensive long-distance phone call in order to get it fixed. More detail of the scam (including the number that will unlock the system)  is available at http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9215711/Ransomware_squeezes_users_with_bogus_Windows_activation_demand, courtesy of Mikko Hypponen, and also at http://www.virusbtn.com/news/2011/04_12.xml.

Mikko has also flagged an alleged iOS Trojan described at http://gadgetsteria.com/2011/04/11/new-unlock-now-free-ios-virus-deleting-phonesim-content/: no further information at present.

David Harley CITP FBCS CISSP
Small Blue-Green World
ESET Senior Research Fellow

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  1. [...] I alluded briefly to a somewhat unconvincing story about  dramatically destructive iOS malware alleged to trashing [...]


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