As if the Chinese authorities didn’t have enough headaches with their home-grown troublemakers, the start of the Olympics has also proved irresistible to cyber criminals, according to security firms. A Symantec spokesman said the volume of junk e-mail messages with an Olympic theme spiked prior to the opening ceremony. Some malicious messages try to trick people into visiting fake sites or opening booby-trapped e-mail attachments, while others falsely claim users have won an Olympic lottery and encourage them to respond to claim their prize. The Symantec spokesman said the messages Symantec had seen in the spam related to the games ran the gamut of modern security threats. He said: “Members of the public have to remember that they should not open e-mails or click on links from unknown sources, no matter how many gold medals they are offering.” Security firm Marshal said many of the malicious and junk messages emerging from the Rustock botnet were about the games. A botnet is made up of a collection of home computers that have been hijacked by a gang of hi-tech criminals who then put it to a variety of ends. Some gangs simply vacuum up the personal data they find on compromised machines, others use the botnets to pump out spam or to attack other sites. The spokesman said the latest batch of e-mails sent out via Rustock appear to be about headline stories on CNN and many concern the Olympics. Those clicking on the headlines get taken to a fake CNN video report and is asked to install a codec to watch the film. Those installing the codec become part of the Rustock botnet. Security company MessageLabs said it was not just members of the public that were at risk. The company said it had seen a campaign that used e-mails crafted to look like they had been written by the International Olympic Committee. A spokesman said the vast majority of the computer security threats taking advantage of the Olympics are aimed at users of Windows PCs. In China itself, Islamist separatists in Xinjian province set off a series of bombs last Sunday, targeting a police station and commercial buildings. The explosions were followed by gunfire in the area, which is 1,860 miles from Beijing. Two policemen were injured and five attackers killed in the pre-dawn violence. Earlier last week, 16 policemen were killed in an attack by Islamist separatists in Xinjiang. Last Saturday, a US tourist was stabbed to death by a Chinese man and a second tourist was badly hurt in the attack at the Drum Tower monument in central Beijing. The pair are relatives of a US Olympic volleyball team coach. The assailant then committed suicide by jumping from the 13th Century landmark. The motive is not known. It was all the more shocking because murders, especially targeting foreigners, are very rare in China.


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