FBI issues warning on hotel Internet connections

FBI says malware lurking in hotel room connections, particularly overseas

The FBI today warned travelers there has been an uptick in malicious software infecting laptops and other devices linked to hotel Internet connections.

The FBI wasn't specific about any particular hotel chain, nor the software involved but stated: "Recent analysis from the FBI and other government agencies demonstrates that malicious actors are targeting travelers abroad through pop-up windows while they are establishing an Internet connection in their hotel rooms.

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The FBI recommends that all government, private industry, and academic personnel who travel abroad take extra caution before updating software products through their hotel Internet connection. Checking the author or digital certificate of any prompted update to see if it corresponds to the software vendor may reveal an attempted attack. The FBI also recommends that travelers perform software updates on laptops immediately before traveling, and that they download software updates directly from the software vendor's website if updates are necessary while abroad."

The FBI said typically travelers attempting to set up a hotel room Internet connection were presented with a pop-up window notifying the user to update a widely used software product. If the user clicked to accept and install the update, malicious software was installed on the laptop. The pop-up window appeared to be offering a routine update to a legitimate software product for which updates are frequently available.

The warning was issued through the FBI's partnership with the Internet Crime Complaint Center's (IC3) and comes on the heels of a number of other warnings such as:

Investment scam: The IC3 continues to receive complaints involving subjects who have obtained the names and Social Security numbers of individuals for illegal purposes. Subjects use the information to defraud the U.S. government by electronically submitting a fraudulent tax return to Internal Revenue Service for a hefty refund. The prevalence of such complaints mirrors the recent surge in tax fraud cases involving identity theft.

The IRS also reported complaints of fraudsters incorporating the use of bogus IRS documents to perpetrate this scheme. "One example of how subjects are using bogus IRS documents to commit investment fraud and steal victims' identities is by the subjects posing as a tax consulting firm. The subjects engage potential victims via telephone and attempt to convince them to sell their underperforming shares in a company. The potential victim is advised to sell their corporate shares, applicable taxes must be paid. Some of the victims were also advised they had to buy other certain shares with their profit. Documents such as share certificates and invoices for federal and state taxes were exchanged via e-mail. After the funds were wired, the subjects became unresponsive to the victim's inquiries. An open source search also revealed multiple complaints concerning this scheme. It is unknown at this time how the subjects obtained knowledge that the victims actually owned underperforming stocks."

Blackhole exploit kit updated: According to the IC3, Blackhole is currently the most widely purchased exploit pack in the underground market. An exploit pack is a software toolkit that is injected into malicious and/or compromised websites, allowing the attacker to push a variety of exploits targeting vulnerabilities of popular applications like Java and Flash.

On March 25, 2012, the Blackhole Exploit Kit 1.2.3 was released, IC3 stated. This kit included the latest critical vulnerability in Java, allowing the bypassing of Java's sandbox environment. Java's sandbox is designed to provide security for downloading and running Java applications, while preventing them access to the hard drive or network. New malware samples appearing in the wild have been highly successful at exploiting this flaw and it is estimated at least 60% of Java users have not yet patched against it.

CPA malware: The IC3 reported an increase in unsolicited e-mails titled "[BULK] Termination of your CPA license." One example of the many e-mail addresses used was support@aicpa.org. The IC3 has also received complaints reporting this spam campaign. The e-mails were purportedly from The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants concerning a complaint filed against the recipient for filing fraudulent tax refunds for their clients. A link was provided for the recipient to view the complaint. Recipients were advised to provide feedback within a specific period of time and threatened with possible termination of their accountant licenses if they failed to do so, the IC3 stated.

Scamming your own car? The IC3 said it received several complainants reported about a scam involving the advertising of a company's logo on personal vehicles.

"Although legitimate offers exist, those scammed reported to the IC3 that initial contact with the subject was mostly through online ad postings. The posting offered an easy way to earn extra income by allowing businesses to advertise their logo on the complainant's personal vehicle through a vinyl decal or "auto wrap." The fraudsters were using company names such as Coca Cola, Monster Energy drink, Carlsberg beer, Heineken Co., and Red Bull. Individuals were advised they would be paid an average of $400 to $600 per week in exchange for driving around with vinyl advertising signs wrapped around their vehicle. Those interested in participating were asked to provide their contact information and vehicle details. They were promised an up-front payment, which would be sent by check or money order," the IC3 stated.

According to the IC3 those who fell for the scam got a check or money order for more than the promised amount. They were directed to cash it and wire the difference to a third party, who was supposed to be the graphics designer to pay for the cost of the design. The checks and money orders turned out to counterfeit and the criminals, once again, were able to convert fraudulent checks and money orders into untraceable cash, leaving the victim responsible for the bank's losses.

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