Cyber crooks cashing in on iPad frenzy

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The Independent Online

Hackers and scammers are cashing in on iPad fever by luring the curious to booby-trapped websites with false promises of information about Apple's new tablet computer.

"Even before the first user could buy the latest and upcoming Apple technology, the iPad, cybercriminals are already making profit from its popularity," said Carolyn Guevarra of computer security firm Trend Micro.

Apple chief executive Steve Jobs on Wednesday revealed the company's latest device, a touchscreen tablet computer called the iPad. The iPad, which resembles an oversized iPhone, begins shipping worldwide in March.

Speculation and anticipation regarding Apple's latest creation built in the months prior to the iPad unveiling, only to be replaced afterward by intense online debate about the device's strengths and weaknesses.

"Sadly, this is just the kind of opportunity fraudsters like to exploit by poisoning search terms," Symantec security expert Candid Wueest told AFP on Friday.

"We can also expect to see iPad-related spam and phishing attacks hitting consumers hard over the coming weeks. We'd advise the curious to be on their guard."

Hackers and criminals "poison" online searches by rigging websites with words likely to be used as query terms to assure prominent ranking on results pages, according to Ivan Macalintal of Trend Micro.

When people seeking iPad insights interact with links on trick pages their machines are infected with "scareware" software that tries to get them to pay to fix computer virus problems that don't actually exist.

"It is thriving," Macalintal said of the cyber-scam. "It actually started the same day Apple announced their creation."

Online criminals routinely take advantage of hot topics such as the Haiti earthquake or the death of a celebrity to lure people into visiting trick websites or opening booby-trapped files, according to computer security firms.

"It is happening every day," Macalintal said. "I'm an Apple freak, so when the iPad news came out I realized it could be used by the bad guys."