Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti shake up leads to cyber shake downs

When disaster strikes, there's a bunch of people who mobilize with lightning speed, calculated precision, and numerous approaches of varying creativity. Unfortunately they're not with the Red Cross, the United Nations Foundation, or even PETA (a group definitely known for quick mobilization). They're the scamming sharks of cyberspace, and they're in a full fledged feeding frenzy.

They spread attention grabbing rumors laced with dangerous links via Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks. They churn out sweeptakes winning volumes of spam. They heavily seed their existing driveby download websites with related keywords to increase their search rankings, and rush to register new domain names, where they may later set up more malware traps at their leisure.

I applaud the good will of those who give the benefit of the doubt, but sadly I'm far too cynical to believe that (most of) these domains are being parked for legitimate purposes. 1,000+ Haiti disaster related domain names snagged since the event? By the time this stampede of Good Samaritans goes back and adds any legitimate functionality to all those websites, Haiti will be several generations past the current crisis. Maybe they're just really forward thinking. Having so many websites already set aside could save hours, even days, up front in the event of another disaster.

However, rather than checking back on where these potential avenues of aid may lead, it's probably a better idea stay on paths already known, and heed warning signs along the way. It's a shame there are so many who will take advantage of people trying to do the right thing, in order to do the wrong thing. If folks keep their wits (and wallets) well enough to do the right thing the right way, the victims will more likely get the help they so desperately need.

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