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Spam Security

Faux-CNN Spam Blitz Delivers Malicious Flash 213

CWmike writes "More than a thousand hacked Web sites are serving up fake Flash Player software to users duped into clicking on links in mail that's part of a massive spam attack masquerading as news notifications, security researchers said today. The bogus messages, which claim to be from the news Web site, include links to what are supposedly the day's Top 10 news stories and Top 10 news video clips from the cable network. Clicking on any of those links, however, brings up a dialog that says an incorrect version of Flash Player has been detected and that tells users they needed to update to a fake newer edition, which delivers a Trojan horse — identified by multiple names, including Cbeplay.a — that 'phones home' to a malicious server to grab and install additional malware."
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Faux-CNN Spam Blitz Delivers Malicious Flash

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  • by Chris Pimlott ( 16212 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @07:09PM (#24504275)

    I was wondering why I being spammed with such a seemingly innocuous message, I thought perhaps it was just a filter poisoning attempt.

    • I have about a hundred in my spam box, they were all addressed to a contact name on a websites I maintain. None were sent to either personal address or the protected email address listed elsewhere on one site I have.

      I did receive them on the corporate level and can only assume to name they spoofed allowed them to broadcast to all notes users... then again knowing some of my co-workers

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) gotta figure pretty much anything from CNN is spam, and is to be ignored, or at viewed with suspicion....


    • Ugggh! (Score:3, Funny)

      by alcmaeon ( 684971 )
      I read the title and I got and image of Bill O'Reilly and Anderson Cooper mooning everybody. Now I need to go scrub my brain with lye soap.
    • I got 7 of these in my Google Spam folder on August 5th. None of them look remotely like spam. You can VERY EASILY see that the links don't point to by OnMouseOvering the links when reading them in Google's client.

      That being said, I am not sure if legit e-mails are going to start getting flagged (not that I think many people would let deliver them "news" in the first place) but itself is a disaster-pot of obnoxious Flash ads with Dancing Mortgage rates and Spinning Whirl

  • I got one of these (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @07:09PM (#24504277)

    it took me quite a while to figure out why this would be effective spam.

    Then I had a look a the HTML view. Quite insidious.

    It provides what looks like a linkified that actually referrs to a different url.

    • I checked and yep, there's tons of copies of this email in my spam folder. The alleged CNN headlines, differing from mail to mail, are awesome.

      4. Bill Clinton Regrets, 'I Am Not a Racist'

      2. Bill Clinton and Monika seen again

      5. Angry, late, tired passengers make computers crash

      7. Celebrity was seen naked on the beach

      7. Drunken Man Can't Erase Arrest

      3. Michael Jackson is sued by his own dog

      Olympics-Wear ox pendant to avoid rat clashes, leaders

      9. Obama beats McCain

  • More like "Faux-CNN Spam Wolf Blitzer Delivers Malicious Flash"!

  • IE7 Scam (Score:5, Funny)

    by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @07:22PM (#24504399) Homepage Journal

    There is another similar one pushing 'IE 7 is now available for download' from 'Microsoft'.

    ya.. right...

  • Facebook, too? (Score:2, Informative)

    Here's an excerpt from a message posted by a friend on EVERYONE's wall: (X's are mine, just to add some security) "HEY GUYS GET YOUR GAMING ON! ENTER AND WIN A PS3 Or Free PLASMA ITS EASY AND FREE SIGN UP AT THE URL BELOW [] "
  • Lawsuit? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cdrguru ( 88047 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @07:27PM (#24504451) Homepage

    Too bad nobody is ever going to find the folks responsible for this. Pretty much any email that even has the letters "cnn" in it will go in the trash now. Do you think any email of a forwarded story from the CNN site would possibly get through today? Next week? It wouldn't surprise me if ad rates took a nosedive because of this as well. Who wants to go to "the spammer" web site?

    This is the sort of extremely bad PR that CNN would be well within their rights to sue the pants off of whoever started this nonsense. Unfortunately, it probably originated somewhere that doesn't care about US companies, US laws or what people think about spam. Also, how exactly would you prove where it came from?

    Hope someone is getting paid real good for this. I don't think this can put CNN out of business, but it is certainly going to hurt real bad.

    • Re:Lawsuit? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dedazo ( 737510 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @07:40PM (#24504569) Journal

      Considering how difficult and expensive it is to track down, indict and convict spammers and malware peddlers (not to mention they later tend to escape and commit suicide), I doubt CNN has the time or energy to do this.

      You're never going to fix people's stupidity, which is ultimately the root of the problem.

      • by Baricom ( 763970 )

        CNN and AOL are both owned by Time Warner, and AOL has tracked down and successfully prosecuted a number of spammers before. The size and level of publicity behind this spam attack might make it worth CNN's while to pursue.

    • Re:Lawsuit? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by trawg ( 308495 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @08:27PM (#24504897) Homepage

      It's certainly a good advertisement for digitally signed email.

      I realise digital signatures are still beyond the reach of most people that use email, but for those of us that actually know what they are and how to use them, it's a pretty decent solution to this problem - at least for people that want to receive email from CNN.

      1) Sign up to CNN for emails
      2) Enter your public key in your CNN alerts profile
      3) Configure your mail client in such a way as to only accept email purporting to be from CNN that is digitally signed
      4) Any email from CNN that is digitally signed, verify the signature - if it matches, accept it, if it doesn't, throw it in the spam pile.

      • An even better solution would be to simply use RSS.

        Problem solved (until hackers use the DNS attack to feed you an RSS feed with modified links. Nothing is fool-proof).

        PKI for email will take off once regular email becomes useless. So in that sense, we should be rooting for the spammers.

      • That's an awful lot of effort for what is essentially a piece of e-mail that is visually identical to the CNN home page. Why not just go there instead?

    • by ignavus ( 213578 )

      I never watch or listen to CNN - it is not available on any channel on my TV and I am not interested in it.

      I would put any email from CNN straight into the bin. So spammers trying to impersonate CNN are going to get exactly the same treatment.

      So spammers - keep impersonating the firms I don't care about (and that's almost all of them).

    • Forwarded articles should go to the trash any way, if I wanted to read it I'd go to the site.

    • Unfortunately, it probably originated somewhere that doesn't care about US companies, US laws....

      Well, that covers most of the world then.

      ....or what people think about spam.

      True, but it is probably an accurate statement to say that spammers don't care what people think about spam.

  • I've received nine of these (in just a few hours) on my usual (university) email address. But google mail keeps telling me about them, instead of marking them as spam or phishing and just moving them out of the way. Worse yet it leaves them on my (university) mail server which has an absurdly low quota - so I'll have to remove them manually. This means I need to deal with this crap twice - once when google mail tells me it won't give it to me and once when I need to login to the server and manually de

  • Lessons Learned (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nymz ( 905908 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @07:34PM (#24504517) Journal
    Companies doing business on the web have curtailed the functionality of email correspondence, and often tell consumers the only safe method is to visit their site and log in. Acquiring software isn't much different, get it from the source. Personally, I find the incessant requirement of plug-ins to be breaking the web when no alternative (text) is offered. /Get off my lawn!
    • by r7 ( 409657 )

      Make that "Companies doing business on the web without basic spam filters in place". Our mailservers all run Spamassassin which easily recognized and tagged these as spam: score=8.449 tests=[BAYES_50=0.001, DNS_FROM_OPENWHOIS=1.13, HELO_DYNAMIC_DHCP=1.398, HTML_MESSAGE=0.001, RCVD_IN_BL_SPAMCOP_NET=1.2, RCVD_IN_PBL=0.905, RCVD_IN_XBL=3.033, RDNS_NONE=0.1, SARE_MONEYTERMS=0.681]. Companies that can't even manage to implement basic spam filters are at a competitve disadvantage. Those that curtail their emai

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DavidTC ( 10147 )

        Dude, spamassassin didn't recognize that message as spam.

        DNS_FROM_OPENWHOIS, HELO_DYNAMIC_DHCP, RCVD_IN_BL_SPAMCOP_NET, RCVD_IN_PBL,RCVD_IN_XBL, and RDNS_NONE are origin checks, not message checks. (Well, the helo isn't technically, but forging it would be worse than correctly stating the dynamic IP.)

        According to the message checks, that message scored BAYES_50=0.001 and HTML_MESSAGE=0.001 using standard spamassassin checks, and SARE_MONEYTERMS=0.681 from the very nice SAREs checks that smart mail admin i

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by r7 ( 409657 )

          The reason it was blocked was that it came from an IP that was current blacklisted for spamming and was clearly a dynamic IP, not that spamassassin recognized the message. Any mail from that IP would have been blocked. Spamassassin actually fell down pretty badly on the content analysis.

          Partially correct, but you're forgetting that headers _are_ content as much as the body, and any properly configured Spamassassin takes full advantage of RBLs, RHSBLs, and CBLs to identify spam (as much as any other signature). On this (well configured) server anything above 6.0 is discarded, yielding no false positives and rare false negatives (~2 per week per account). Sure it would have scored higher if it had better analyzed the hrefs, but the point is that it recognized the messages as spam.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dfn_deux ( 535506 )
        Any admin, such as myself, whom works for a large ISP can look at your spam assassin header there and see a big reason why we can't and generally don't use your solution for filtering.

        score=8.449 tests=[BAYES_50=0.001, DNS_FROM_OPENWHOIS=1.13, HELO_DYNAMIC_DHCP=1.398, HTML_MESSAGE=0.001, RCVD_IN_BL_SPAMCOP_NET=1.2, RCVD_IN_PBL=0.905, RCVD_IN_XBL=3.033, RDNS_NONE=0.1, SARE_MONEYTERMS=0.681]

        The majority of your spam ranking scores depend on some third party real time blacklisting services. My mail servers p

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        It's not phishing, which is old news, but the security flaws of a proprietary and closed source application. There's no way Adobe can secure Flash without taking it to open source and getting the resulting peer review.

        No - it is phishing - the social engineering kind, and it has nothing to do with the security of Adobe Flash. It just fools the user into thinking he is going to download a new Flash player, but he ends up with a virus. I suppose you didn't RTFA.

  • by Chris Pimlott ( 16212 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @07:43PM (#24504593)

    I can see the headline now: "We're not spamming you (really)"

  • by TheMCP ( 121589 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @07:44PM (#24504603) Homepage

    A trojan-horse application is being delivered by email, masquerading as content from a major corporation.

    This is news? We're supposed to be surprised?

  • by jeiler ( 1106393 ) <> on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @07:46PM (#24504617) Journal

    Cross-posted from my journal.

    And now we have the latest malware wave [], where 1000+ legitimate sites have been hacked to serve a fake Flash player. This is going to seriously hurt CNN's reputation (and ad revenue), as a lot of folks are going to set their mail servers to delete stuff that even mentions CNN. Worse yet, it's going to put a serious hurting on the 1000+ hacked sites: CNN has enough goodwill and trust built up that it will survive the onslaught, but the "other victims" may end up blacklisted by a lot of folks.

    Most malware authors have learned not to crap in their own bed: the days of a virus that wiped your files are fading; now we have malware that more-or-less uses your files alone, but uses your connection to send spam or do DoS attacks. If they make the attack less blatant, it's less likely to be discovered and cleaned up.

    While the malware authors may be trying to stay quiet on the PC, they sure don't mind hurting companies ... and that hurts the internet as a whole. As much as some in the geek community may dislike it, the Internet is payed for by commerce--internet sales, services, and subscriptions indirectly pay for the infrastructure we all use. If these small companies are hurt by spammers and malware authors, then the small companies may be less willing to maintain an internet presence--which means there will be less people who pay the ISPs to maintain and improve the infrastructure.

    There are a lot of contingent statements in the above paragraph, and maybe I'm getting more worried than I should be, but I have to wonder: how long will it be until spammers, scammers, and other low-grade shits ruin the Internet for everyone?

    • by robogun ( 466062 )

      I think Flash takes the hit, and maybe video news delivery as well. But to be honest, what's the great loss? I like CNN and have it bookmarked, but nothing is more irritating than a story that is video only. Unless the story is visually compelling, there is no need to waste so much bandwidth.

    • There are a lot of contingent statements in the above paragraph, and maybe I'm getting more worried than I should be, but I have to wonder: how long will it be until spammers, scammers, and other low-grade shits ruin the Internet for everyone?

      I'd be more concerned about the internet being ruined by net partisaniality (for lack of a better term -- what exactly is the opposite of net neutrality?). The internet ceasing to be a content-agnostic delivery system for bits would be the real tragedy.

      As far as spa

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jeiler ( 1106393 )

        The internet ceasing to be a content-agnostic delivery system for bits would be the real tragedy.

        This is starting to wander off-topic, but the Internet has never been "content agnostic"--and the WWW is even less so. At least since the advent of the "commercial Internet," and even to some extent on the pre-commercial "academic internet," content (and locations) is vetted by the administrators of the various service providers. Back in the days of the academic Internet--your sysop doesn't like netnews? He can tell the college administrators "It's full of porn," block port 119, and there's not a damn thing

  • by coljac ( 154587 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @08:10PM (#24504805) Homepage

    This spam helped me find a bug in my procmail recipe - this was sent to my Sourceforge email address (never had spam there before), and was forwarded on to Google which bounced it as an illegal attachment. Kudos to Google for being on the ball.

    The 1,200 recursive bounce messages that ensued were no-one's fault but my own. :)

  • I haven't received a single one. This is why I run my own mail server. I don't trust other people to do a good job.

    Without looking at the logs, my guess is the Zen list from is doing the good work here.

  • Linux Sux (Score:5, Funny)

    by Jafar00 ( 673457 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @10:26PM (#24505731) Homepage
    It's unfair. I clicked the link in the email, and it told me to update flash, but the flash updater I downloaded from their site doesn't work on my computer.

    How am I supposed to see the CNN videos if they don't make a linux version? Linux sux, I'm going back to windows. :(
  • by Deven ( 13090 ) <> on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @10:34PM (#24505803) Homepage

    This is a REALLY aggressive spam campaign. I never received a message with the subject of " Daily Top 10" until 2 days ago at 1:49 PM. Since then, I have received 1,799 of these messages and counting. Of course, I get spammed to death already -- my email address ( has been public for many years, and I don't even hide it here on Slashdot, even though it really is my primary email address. Spam has grown to the point where I am receiving over 10,000 messages every single day. (Yes, that's about a million messages in 3 months.)

    On a separate note, I received an email yesterday with the title "Action required to avoid account access interruption" -- and it was actually a legitimate email! I receive such emails daily from phishing attempts, but this one was actually sent to me by TD Ameritrade.

    It's a sad state of affairs when it's the legitimate email that comes as a surprise.

  • Mail reader flaw (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wytcld ( 179112 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @11:09PM (#24506043) Homepage

    Why don't all mail readers which display html simply do what Slashdot does - show the real site linked to in brackets next to whatever text is in the link, like " []" - perhaps with highlighting when both look like urls, but they don't match? That would kill so many phishing attempts.

    • It's definitely not a bad idea, but the type of person who would fall for this stuff is probably not the type of person who really even understands what a URL is, nevermind how to read one or that they can be something other than what they appear to be.
  • Settings for Outlook (Score:3, Informative)

    by ashitaka ( 27544 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @11:10PM (#24506061) Homepage
    A while ago I had a regular email that would for whatever reason lock up Outlook when trying to download its HTML content.

    So I set Outlook to always show plain text versions of all emails. This has provided two benefits:

    1) Much faster message display
    2) Malicious emails are easier to spot

    In this case it was a while bunch of links where the text was but the actual href was

    In Outlook 2007: Tools - Trust Center - E-Mail Security - Read all standard mail in plain text.
    • Indeed, HTML mail is a WTF in itself. But not so bad a WTF as even contemplating using Outlook.

  • Not Flash (Score:3, Informative)

    by dFaust ( 546790 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @11:14PM (#24506089)

    Just to be clear, users are downloading malicious software that is posing as the Flash Player. "Malicious Flash", to me, means Flash content (a SWF) that uses a vulnerability in the Flash Player to compromise a user's system. While Flash hasn't had a spotless security record, I don't know of any instances where a vulnerability in the Flash Player has been exploited on a scale such as this. In the past few years, Adobe has really strived to make Flash Player much more secure. Were this to be an actual case of "malicious Flash", I think it would be a big PR problem for Adobe and make end users extra wary of Flash for some time to come.

    The wording in the title seems to me like calling someone social engineering some passwords a "WIndows security vulnerability" - misleading and inaccurate, at best.

  • Saw it.

    Figured it out in 12 seconds.

    Deleted it.

    Blacklisted it.

    As if CNN got me subscribed somehow, and is using some podunk server in East Gish.

    pity da fools that got sucked in.

  • Call me when they ported it to mac so we can have the same user experience ...

    Any project maintainers?

  • We need to change the odds of the spammers' game to make them the losers. My suggestion to make Gmail a very hostile environment for spammers [].

Information is the inverse of entropy.