News of Michael Jackson's death blazes across the web--what if it were a hoax?

Over at the SEOmozBlog, Danny Dover has a really interesting post about how, and how fast, the news of Michael Jackson's death travelled across the web. I won't go through it here, but it's a fascinating read. Less than an hour after the 911 call the news was appearing on the web. Less than three hours after the call and Twitter was a little sluggish with all the happenings (approximately 1500 mentions per minute of Michael Jackson's death), whereas MSNBC, the first "traditional" news organization to confirm his death, was just posting the first confirmation.

So what does this have to do with security, really? Well, not much on the face. But this information travelled so amazingly fast, I couldn't help but wonder what would have happened if it were all a big fake--if the earliest source(s) of information on this story were either made up or placed with malicious intent by insiders or hackers? It seems to me that a well-orchestrated hoax might get picked up by some minor celebrity news sites, then a few larger ones, maybe Digg, and from there the Twitter blaze seems inevitable. How many users could be duped into following links to a "story" (through or of course) before it can be investigated, denied and squashed? I'm betting a lot.

We have read countless stories of scammers/spammers/phishers using hot news stories (Iran, for example) in order to drive traffic to their malware, but have there been any instances of them faking potentially hot news for this purpose? I'd love to hear of any that have already happened--but if there are none, I'm betting one will be here soon.

Labels: Malware| phishing
Chris Sullo | ‎06-26-2009 08:19 PM

Not 5 minutes after posting I saw Slashdot pointing out recent Forbes and Wired articles about real-looking but fake ads on news sites. These look semi-legit for the site they are on, and point back to web sites that look like legitimate TV affiliate stations. Very close to what I was talking about.

The pieces are all there...someone just needs to set fire to the right explosive (and fake) story.

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