IT security firm Sophos has urged computer users to display caution when dealing with unsolicited emails and unqualified online information sources, after hackers took advantage of the popular Wikipedia encyclopaedia in an attempt to spread malicious code.
Wikipedia allows anyone to create and modify articles, a policy of openness which has often been abused by mischief-makers in the past. Taking advantage of this, hackers created an article on the German edition of Wikipedia containing false information about a new version of the Blaster worm, along with a link to a ‘fix’ for the worm. However, in reality the fix was actually a piece of malicious code, designed to infect visitors’ PCs.
The hackers then spammed out an email to German computer users, which purported to come from Wikipedia, and directed recipients to the fraudulent information. Because the emails linked to a legitimate website, they were able to bypass some anti-spam solutions. Sophos’s global network of spam traps intercepted the spam messages, and Sophos customers were protected from receiving the emails.
“The good news is that the authorities at Wikipedia quickly identified and edited the article on their site,” said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. “Unfortunately, however, a version of the page remained in the archive, allowing the hackers to send out spam and continue to direct visitors to the malicious code.”
Wikipedia has now confirmed that it has permanently erased all versions of the page.