Beware! WhatsApp message offers 'gifts', infects users' devices

Apr 15, 2015, 15:34 IST | Sharad Vyas

The message claims to offer ‘gift certificates’ from Flipkart, Amazon on a particular website; this site launches a program that includes your device in a network of infected computers susceptible to cyber attacks

A recent trend on WhatsApp these days is seeking to fool people into visiting a website and infecting their computers or mobile devices. There is a message being circulated on the social networking platform, which claims to offer gifts on behalf of popular e-commerce firms Amazon and Flipkart on a stated website.

Clicking on the website mentioned in the message could potentially expose your computer or device to cyber attacks
Clicking on the website mentioned in the message could potentially expose your computer or device to cyber attacks

This website, however, launches a computer program that exposes your device to cyber attacks. The message doing rounds on WhatsApp reads, “WhatsApp and Amazon are together giving out Rs 5,000 Amazon gift certificate to first 18,000 lucky people.

Visit -> <- to redeem your voucher. Hurry Up!” Another such message is being circulated in the name of Flipkart as well. This website is actually a Trojan, which, in computer parlance, is a program that appears to have a benign purpose, but, in reality, is hiding a malicious functionality or executable file with the intent of carrying out cyber attacks possibly of the nature of data theft.

These ‘gift-bearing’ Trojans, experts now say, are likely to be an attempt to launch a botnet, which is a network of virus-infected computers that are susceptible to targeted cyber attacks.

This implies your computer now becomes a part of this network and is prone to dangerous attacks. Even if you visit the website on your mobile phone, your device is also vulnerable to this attack, since there are botnets for the Android operating system as well.

Cyber security experts are privately raising an alarm over this, since some of these links that are being distributed on social messaging platforms like WhatsApp have been traced all the way back to Poland. A team of forensic experts have already informed the police about it, and carried out their investigation on the links.

“When we gave a command request for this link, it contained a message and a new URL that had been registered in Poland and read in Polish language, ‘spolka codewise limited liability’. We were left wondering why would the Polish come into the picture here. This is a serious issue and the authorities must make a note of it,” a cyber forensic expert from Pune told mid-day.

Forensic experts say this could also be a basic web hosting scam, in which fake companies spend a lot on false advertisements. They lure non-assuming clients by cheap options and heavy discounts, and once they get the money from the victim, they flee to oblivion.

Cop speak
“We have taken note of this, but not a single complaint has come to us, so far. We are looking into it,” said Nandkishore More, assistant commissioner of police, Cyber Crime Cell, Mumbai Police.

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