RealTime IT News

Hurricane Rita Stirs up Scammers

As Hurricane Rita's winds whip up force off the Gulf Coast and officials continue to evacuate over a million area residents, Internet watchdogs warn another wave of chaos may not be far behind the storm.

The SANS International Storm Center today said it is now working with the US-CERT Control Systems Security Center, a department of Homeland Security program to secure national infrastructures, to help reduce Internet scamming they expect to proliferate as the storm rips ashore this weekend.

Much like last month's Hurricane Katrina, when an estimated 500 Katrina-based scam sites sprouted up in one day, phishing and pharming scams are expected to skyrocket.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI have already sent warnings of fraud schemes.

Internationally, several groups began preparing for Rita scams with a "call to arms" notice that was sent out on the MWP (Malicious Websites and Phishing) research and operational mailing list.

Gadi Evron, the CERT manager in Israel's ministry of finance, sent a note over the Internet.

"Over the next few days, some of us are going to process information about sites that will probably be used for Rita scams," Evron said.

The note asks the security community to report any suspected fraud attempts to the SANS Internet Storm Center and to the U.S. CERT (Computer Emergence Response Team).

The International Storm Center (ISC) said domain name registrars, anti-phishing, anti-spam groups and national CERTS are working together to have these sites closed down as fast as possible.

The Storm Center said it will continue to work with the US-CERT on coming up with lists of scam sites.

The Red Cross has also set up a special e-mail address for reporting suspicious sites.

In addition, the ISC said numerous bogus charities covering Hurricane Rita had already been discovered.

The situation is reminiscent of last months Hurricane Katrina as scammer raced to register Katrina related domain names to scam the public. Similar online cyber-looting occurred following the Asian tsunami in December.