February 20, 2007
EMAIL hackers are using a fake news alert claiming Prime Minister John
Howard suffered a heart attack in an attempt to steal personal
information from Australian PC users.
The email features a news report falsely claiming to come from The
Australian newspaper's online edition and which includes links to
The news report, which is written in less-than-perfect English, claims
the Prime Minister had suffered a heart attack and that surgeons were
working to save his life.
"The Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard have (sic) survived a
heart attack," the email reads.
"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."
Anyone clicking on links on the bogus report risks importing a virus.
The Australian Computer Emergency Response Team (AusCERT) said today it
was not yet clear how many systems had been infected.
However, the virus, first reported yesterday, resembles previous attacks
on Australian PCs.
Last year, a trojan virus known as Haxdor accompanied an email claiming
the National Australia Bank had gone bankrupt.
Nationally, Haxdor infected about 10,000 systems over a period of
MacLeonard Starkey from AusCERT said the John Howard email was part of a
broader trend in spamming that used topical events to suck in a broad
mass of victims.
"Everyone that loves him wants to click on it, everybody that hates him
wants to click on it, so it's a fairly good all round one," Mr Starkey
Once installed, the program is able to log any keyboard sequences or
mouse clicks that a user may enter - including personal identification
numbers used on bank websites - and change security settings.
"It basically means some attacker, somewhere can do whatever they like
on your system," Mr Starkey said.
AusCERT is uncertain of the email's origin but says such viruses are
increasingly originating in China.
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