Heath Ledger fans get a dose of malware

Malware authors put up infected Web sites to get users to download malicious files while browsing news on the actor's demise, says Trend Micro.

The death of actor Heath Ledger has prompted cybercriminals to trick unsuspecting fans into downloading malware via infected Web sites, security company Trend Micro has warned.

Described by many to be promising in his field, Ledger had previously been nominated for an Oscar for his role in the film Brokeback Mountain. The 28-year-old was found dead in his Manhattan apartment last week.

Ross Wilson, Trend Micro's managing director of consumer products and services in the Asia-Pacific region, said in a statement that within hours of Ledger's death, malware authors capitalized on the opportunity in the huge volume of news searches relating to his demise.

Fans who click on malicious links, explained Wilson, would be "led to a search engine optimized keyword-riddled page" and then automatically redirected to another site that requires users to download a "new version of ActiveX object".

"This is just the beginning of a series of redirections that end in the download of different malicious files to the user's computer," he said, adding that users should only visit "established and verifiable news sites" and make sure their Internet security software are up-to-date.

According to Trend Micro, malware authors had similarly exploited Web users during the aftermath of the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister and prominent opposition party candidate Benazir Bhutto last month.