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Osama Bin Laden Virus Emails

by Brett M. Christensen

Emails claim that Osama Bin Laden has been captured or hanged and ask recipients to open an attachment or follow a link for more information.

Brief Analysis:
In 2005, when these emails first began circulating, Osama Bin Laden had not been killed. Links or attachments in the messages launched a trojan. However, in May 2011, Bin Laden was indeed killed by US operatives. The specific threat posed by these malware emails has long since ceased to be significant. However, scammers and malware distributors have actively exploited the May 2011 news of Bin Laden’s death. Thus, Internet users should be very cautious of any messages that claim to offer pictures or videos about Bin Laden.

Turn on your TV!!!

Osama Bin Laden has been captured. While CNN has no pictures at this point of time, the military channel (PPV) released some. I managed to capture a couple of these pictures off my TV. Ive attached a slideshow containing all the pictures I managed to capture. I apologize for the low quality, its the best I could do at this point of time. Hopefully CNN will have pictures and a video soon.

God bless the USA!

Detailed Analysis:
In 2005, emails began circulating that claimed that Osama Bin Laden had been captured or had been found hanged. At the time that the messages first began circulating, it was not true that Bin Laden had been killed. However, history has finally caught up with these emails (and Bin Laden). In May 2011, Bin Laden was indeed killed in Pakistan by US operatives.

Opening the attachment or clicking a link that came with these 2005 emails installed a malicious trojan on the recipient’s computer. There were several versions of the message distributed. Some carried an attachment that supposedly contained photographs of the capture. Others included a link to a website that supposedly showed pictures or news footage of Osama Bin Laden’s arrest.

Several years on, the specific threat posed by the 2005 trojan attack has long since disappeared. However, almost immediately after the real news of Bin Laden’s demise began hitting news outlets, Internet criminals began exploiting the massive, worldwide public interest in the story. As in the 2005 attack, criminals began using the promise of pictures or videos of Bin Laden’s death as a means of distributing malware. In other cases, the death was used to trick people into participating in survey or phishing scams.

Such Bin Laden related attacks are likely to continue. Internet users should be very cautious of following links or opening attachments in email or social media posts that claim to offer footage or photographs of Bin Laden’s killing. There are currently no official videos or photographs of the killing or of Bin Laden’s body and none are likely to be released. Thus, any message that claims to have such footage or photographs should be treated with suspicion.

Soon after the original trojan bearing messages themselves began circulating in 2005, a number of warning messages about the messages also began to circulate. The 2011 news of Bin Laden death has given these old warnings new life and many are once again circulating. Although the danger posed by Bin Laden related malware emails is real, many of these warning messages are exaggerated and misleading. Malware that comes with such Bin Laden messages is certainly malicious, but it is unlikely to damage the infected computer to such an extent that it could not be repaired as claimed in some of the warnings. One of the “warning” messages that is once again circulating combines a highly exaggerated warning about the Bin Laden trojan discussed here with totally false information about a non-existent “Olympic Torch” virus. Such misleading warnings do little good and should not be forwarded.

Fake information about famous (or infamous) people is often used as a means of distributing email worms or trojans. In June, 2005 an email message about the apparent suicide of Michael Jackson directed recipients to a website that downloaded a trojan.

Last updated: 10th May 2011
First published:2 July 2005
By Brett M. Christensen
About Hoax-Slayer

Computer experts warn of Osama bin Laden malware scams
Facebook Virus Warning – BBC Video Of Bin Laden Killing
Bin-Laden and Olympic Torch Virus Warning Hoax
Michael Jackson Suicide Message Points to Trojan
Fake Bin Laden e-mail hides virus

Importance Notice

After considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.

These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.

Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.

And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.

When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.

I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.

A Big Thank You

I would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.

I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.

Closing Date

Hoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.

Thank you, one and all!

Brett Christensen,