Experts: Justin Bieber Virus Spotted…But Sputtering

Anti virus experts are warning the public about a new virus that tempts unwitting Windows users with the promise of a video of teen heart throb Justin Bieber. But the virus appears to be having trouble attracting the interest of potential victims.

Anti virus experts are warning the public about a new virus that tempts unwitting Windows users with the promise of a video of teen heart throb Justin Bieber. But the virus appears to be having trouble attracting the interest of potential victims.

The malware, named Trojan.Bieber.FraudPack was spotted early Friday and appears to be spreading through malicious e-mail attachments containing what is purported to be a “bootleg” live video recording of Bieber performing his hit “Never Let You Go.” Opening the attachment installs the Trojan which has been linked to rogue antivirus, botnet and adware installations. However, anti virus experts say that, while they’re seeing lots of evidence that the virus is being spammed out, they’ve seen few to any infections from it.

“Its odd,” said Mikko Hypponen of F-Secure. “Nobody seems that interested in watching the video, so the ‘bait,’ as it were, isn’t working.”

Graham Cluley, a spokesman for anti virus vendor Sophos, said he had witnessed the same behavior.

“People seem more than happy to hit the ‘delete’ button when this baby shows up in their inbox. And if you’re an organized crime group that hoped to build out your botnet, or steal information, that’s a bad thing.”

Virus writers using the lure of celebrity to trick users into opening dodgy attachments is nothing new. Famously, an e-mail virus  spread widely in February 2001 by promising recipients photos of tennis star and model Anna Kournikova. A Dutch programmer, Jan De Wit, admitted responsibility for creating that virus and ultimately was charged with spreading data into a computer network with the intention of causing damage and sentenced to one hundred and fifty hours community service.

Experts were at a loss as to why the Bieber virus wasn’t meeting with similar success. Some theorize that the lack of interest may reflect a generational divide: heavy e-mail users tend to be older, while Bieber’s core constituency of 9 to 13 year olds primarily communicate via social networks or text messages sent by cell phone.

“The kinds of people who would actually be interested in seeing Bieber in action are just not using e-mail,” said Costin Raiu, head of anti virus research at Kaspersky Lab. Instead, the virus-laden e-mails are largely reaching the parents of Bieber fans, many of whom have already had all they can take of clean cut, mop top teen with the auto-tuned voice. Bieber has skyrocketed to stardom in the last two years. He was the most talked about person on the social network, beating out the likes of Lady Gaga, Mel Gibson and Wikileaks chief Julian Assange.

As a rule, using celebrities to spread malware is a safe bet, said Raiu, who predicted that fraudsters would soon change up their technique once they realized that Bieber wasn’t working as a lure.

“The choice of which celebrity to use is arbitrary,” he said. “It has nothing to do with the malware itself, so I expect that they’ll opt for different bait once they realize that Justin isn’t doing it.”

Raiu declined to speculate on what other celebrities might do a better job catching the attention of intended victims. “Who knows…maybe Charlie Sheen?”

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