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Hurricane Harvey is leaving plenty of destruction in its wake, but it could also impact the finances and computer security of internet users thousands of miles away from the danger zone.
As we’ve seen on far too many occasions before, scammers think nothing of capitalising off human misery. And the natural disaster striking parts of Texas is no different, as online scammers target the charitable and concerned. The sad truth is that scammers will often view a disaster like Hurricane Harvey as nothing more than a money-making opportunity.
The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) issued an advisory this week warning the public of the danger of falling for Hurricane Harvey-related charity scams.
Merciless scammers have no qualms about exploiting people’s kind-hearted nature by spreading their attacks via social networks and email, linking to counterfeit charity websites designed to steal the public’s payment card details.
There are already reports that Hurricane Harvey-related domains have been registered for the purposes of collecting funds. Even if these have been set up by well-meaning individuals, rather than enterprising criminals, with the intent of collecting donations for the relief of Harvey’s victims, it would be better if everyone dealt with established charities instead.
Meanwhile, online criminals could take advantage of the understandable keen interest in the breaking news story to spread malicious links and attachments in an attempt to infect unsuspecting users’ computers with malware.
BuzzFeed has collected details of some of the questionable Hurricane Harvey-related posts making the rounds, including some where people are sharing an “emergency” number which actually directs to an insurance firm.
Of course, it’s possible that people are simply sharing the number with good intentions – not realising that it’s not really appropriate for anyone in a genuine state of emergency.
Once again, the human race is finding it much easier to share information (even if it’s inaccurate) than spend a few minutes considering whether it might be truthful. This is the way that bogus news and advice can spread so rapidly online.
Many of us are shocked by the TV news reports from Texas and shocking personal stories of those affected. Which makes it all the more important to exercise caution about what we believe, and think before we act rashly.
Author Graham Cluley, We Live Security