A fake report that Kanye West died in a bizarre car crash in Los Angeles made its way onto the net yesterday evening sending hoards of users googling and twittering about it. Cybercrooks reacted promptly by hijacking search results on the subject and pushing scareware.
The bogus report was apparently the work of 4chan's /b/ board, the birthplace of lolcats, as well as other popular Internet memes and hoaxes. The hacktivist group Anonymous is also believed to have originated there. The members of this board are notoriously known for being Internet trolls and have picked on celebrities before.
The rumor spread fast on social networking websites and soon enough, Kanye West's fake death became a trending topic on Twitter and the top search keyword on Google. And, as usual, cybercrooks jumped at the occasion to leverage the growing public interest and distribute some more rogueware.
For this purpose, the fraudsters used what has become one of their favorite tools in recent times – search result poisoning. Security experts warn that these criminal gangs have mastered the search engine optimization (BHSEO) techniques up to the point where they can get a malicious link to appear in Google top ten search results for specific keyphrases within hours.
"Clicking on the link will take you to a webpage that tries to infect you with fake anti-virus (also known as scareware)," Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, explains. “In light of the rising number of attacks of this nature, computer users would be sensible to exercise extreme caution. Furthermore, ensure that security software is scanning every webpage they visit for malicious code," he advises.
Kanye West is not the first celebrity to be falsely pronounced dead on the Internet. Actresses Emma Watson (Harry Potter) and Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana) have fallen victims to similar pranks. Mr. West also had run-ins with hackers before, which ended with the rapper begging them to leave him alone.