The rescue of the 33 miners from the Chilean mine was an epic, record-setting event followed on TV, print, and internet by one of the largest audiences ever.
Not all of those watching were benevolent.
As interest peaked during the October 13 rescue, some of the search terms were hijacked. These were used to redirect internet surfers – particularly those without an effective antivirus program – to bogus sites and infect their computers with malware.
Some of the more than 35 infected terms included: Miners Rescue, Chilean Mine Rescue, and Rescate De Los Mineros
The cybercriminals interest in the miners was statistical, not emotional. With millions of people looking for information on their fate, cybercriminals had a higher statistical chance that some of them would click on an infected link. “If the search term is visible on Google Trends, it will be infected,” wrote Jindrich Kubec, avast! Virus Lab director of virus research, in a midnight message to me.
Wherever people are gathering, there is a higher chance of encountering criminals on the hunt. The same principle is at work for malware and for pickpockets as they work over crowds of shoppers. The only difference is that one has a high-tech approach and the other has a direct, hands-on methodology as they reach for your wallet.
As the rescue attempt progressed, I found myself returning to search the internet for additional stories on the people involved and the interchange between technology, environment, and the rescue effort. In the last few days, I've learned about miners, historical relations between Bolivia and Chile, drilling technology, and life underground. However, I did have my avast! Internet Security running all the time.
Now that the miners are safely out, I wish them a quick return to a normal life where they will no longer be used as a decoy for malware. And then I will soon be researching other things on the internet. My wife wants a new stove for the house and a henhouse for the back yard.