Beware Fake Malaysia Airlines Stories, Warn Experts

Brandon Dimmel's picture

Security experts are warning users to take extra caution when seeking information about the lost Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 online.

Reports suggest that cybercriminals are taking advantage of the media buzz surrounding the missing plane in order to spread computer malware through malicious web sites, social media, emails, and bogus links.

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 went missing on March 8, 2014. It's still not clear if the plane was hijacked or crashed, let alone where the impact might have taken place. A coalition of 26 countries is currently looking for the aeroplane. (Source:

Cybercrooks Spread Malware, Spam Through Fake Links

The uncertainty surrounding Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has made the story extremely popular on television, in newspapers, and on the world wide web.

Malware cybercrooks are taking advantage of the situation by posting fake videos with titles like "Malaysian Airlines missing flight MH370 found in Sea -- 50 people alive saved" on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. (Source:

Links to the purported videos instead redirect users to forged web sites that infect the visitor's computer with malware. Malware infections on such sites can install automatically onto the user's system without knowledge or consent (depending on exploit being used on the web site). Some malware can hold your computer's data for ransom, while others turn your PC into a spamming botnet, or an Internet weapon designed to bring down other websites.

These types of exploits - also known as 'drive by downloads' - are likely to surge in popularity after Windows XP's end of life. The product's end of life means Microsoft will stop releasing security updates for Windows XP after April 8th, 2014. All Windows XP machines beyond that date will be extra susceptible to malware attacks due to zero-day exploits which will no longer be corrected by Microsoft.

Similar Fake Stories, Websites Ask for Personal Information

That said, there are variants to the bogus Malaysian airplane stories which are making their way around the Internet. Blog says it has found a fake link claiming that the Malaysia Airlines flight disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle. (Source:

As preposterous as that sounds (the flight is believed to have disappeared in Southeast Asia, thousands of miles from the Bermuda Triangle), many people are clicking on the link, which entices users with images of a Lion Air passenger plane that crashed last April.

This tactic doesn't appear to result in the installation of malware, but it will lead users to a number of fake web pages. Some of these pages ask users to provide sensitive personal information, including mobile phone numbers and email addresses.

Experts suggest that providing such information will likely result in users being added to a spam email list, which could in turn lead to dangerous links being sent to victims' inboxes at a later date, perpetuating more exploits and malware infections.

Social media outlet Facebook says it's working hard to remove as many fake web links as it can, but it's important all web users use extra vigilance when searching out information about Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

What's Your Opinion?

What's your theory on what happened to the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370? Does this article make you think twice about searching for popular news and information online? Lastly, have you ever been duped into clicking on a bogus web link before and did it result in a malware infection?

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DavidFB's picture

What has appalled me more in the news is the coverage of the Crimea. Foolish statements by supposed world leaders, dangerous sabre rattling, misleading reporting, and so forth. A reasonably run and internationally supervised vote will "never be accepted" and is demonized but the overthrow of a democratic government is celebrated? A lot of it is nonsense from all sides and full of meddling agendas.

The Airlines story has seen a big share of second-guessing. Not impressive when legitimate news outlets have no news, so they conjecture into craziness or amplify a lame comment into a possibility.

This article on Wired makes a lot more sense and is based on known facts.

And yes, I have been duped, even with my understanding. But I also have decent protection so have not been infected in a long time. Several friends certainly have.