WASHINGTON - Computer security experts warned on Monday that online scammers have already started to exploit the death of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to spread malware.
"Watch out for the links you're likely to come across in email or on social networking sites offering you additional coverage of this newsworthy event," Paul Ducklin of computer security firm Sophos said in a blog post.
"Many of the links you see will be perfectly legitimate links," Ducklin said. "But at least some are almost certain to be dodgy links, deliberately distributed to trick you into hostile Internet territory."
By late Monday, researchers at US computer security firm McAfee were seeing email messages as well as updates at social network Facebook and microblogging service Twitter baited with promises of pictures or news of bin Laden.
"I suppose this was just inevitable," David Marcus of McAfee said in an online message.
"The reported death of Osama bin Laden is just too good a lure for cybercriminals and scammers to pass up."
Cyber crooks were using "expected lures" in messages to dupe people into clicking on links booby-trapped with malicious software designed to steal data from or take control of infected computers, according to Marcus.
Ploys included a bogus promise of a look at a video debunking reports of his killing by showing the 9/11 mastermind holding up a newspaper with today's date, McAfee reported.
Another trick was to promise graphic pictures of bin Laden's corpse.
Mike Lennon of SecurityWeek said cybercriminals "typically use very attractive headlines to encourage users to click links and direct them to malware infected Web pages."
"Links are already beginning to spread across Facebook, similar to what happened following news of the recent earthquake in Japan," Lennon said.
"Users should be cautious of spam containing links to photos, videos and other information that sounds remarkably interesting on bin Laden's death.
"Users also need to be cautious of tweets through Twitter, and Facebook posts, as cybercriminals gear up to attract unsuspecting traffic to spread malware," he continued.
Cybercriminals frequently use high-profile news events in a bid to entrap unsuspecting victims.