As Americans mark the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, security officials are trying to head off a different type of attack — a surge of scams tied to mass remembrance of the tragic day.
Watch out for online links that attempt to steal your personal financial information by making false promises of enticing video, photographs and news related to 9/11 if you click on a link.
If past patterns play out again, the come-ons will be in online ads, social network postings and emails. Email subject lines may contain "anything and everything related to the attacks," according to the blog of Ondrej Krehel, chief information security officer for the security firm Identity Theft 911. "That includes bin Laden footage, 'secret' videos, conspiracy theories."
At best, the links will lead you to ads for shady products. But the Department of Homeland Security warns that poisoned attachments on these emails could contain secret software that logs each keystroke you make and sends the data to hackers who extract your sign-ins and passwords from it. The attachments might also contain "malware" that gives crooks remote access to your computer.
Officials at Homeland Security's cyber-security center have issued a warning to federal, state and local officials, as well as private-sector computer network administrators.
"Malicious cyber-actors commonly seek to leverage high-profile news events by posing as a trustworthy source and enticing users to open links or files," DHS spokesman Chris Ortman told the Bulletin.
"For example, a phishing scam may send an email that looks like it's from a reputable news organization with links to photos or video when, in fact, it takes you to a malicious website or downloads harmful viruses onto your computer."
Ortman would not comment on whether the warning is a proactive measure or signals there is specific intelligence that cyber-attacks are planned. But keep in mind that after the May 2 shooting of Osama bin Laden, scammers almost immediately sent out a flood of email keyed to the event. Many included links claiming to show "exclusive" or "unseen" pictures and video of the raid by Navy SEALs.
In addition to these scams, beware of charity cons tied to the anniversary. They could also come via email or by telephone and door-to-door solicitations.
"9/11's ten-year anniversary is sure to evoke emotions, memories and, of course, philanthropy," says Dale Mingilton of the Better Business Bureau in a press release. "It could also, unfortunately, serve as a platform for scammers and those who conduct irresponsible fundraising."
Last week, an Associated Press investigation found that some nonprofit groups that were started after the attacks never delivered on their promises. For instance, one charity raised more than $700,000 for a giant memorial quilt but never produced a quilt. Another raised more than $4 million supposedly to help victims, but couldn't account for how it spent that money.