Don't click on Harry Potter spoiler links, urge experts

Experts are warning users not to be tempted by to click on any links claiming to give away the ending of the latest Harry Potter book as they could end up infecting computers with malware.

Many websites abound with rumours of how the successful series of adventures of the boy wizard will end. Already as reported by IT PRO, one worm has already infected computers using social engineering techniques to lure victims into downloading what the malware claims is the full transcript to "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows". But some websites could hide a deadly payload, according to experts.

"Social engineering has been the cornerstone of malware for years," said Tom Newton, product manager at Firewall software company SmoothWall. "It's far easier to exploit the wetware than the software, the flaws are more obvious - ego, greed, fear."

He said that every time there's a major event, natural disaster or flavour-of-the-month celebrity, there's malware offering victims "the inside track, the news, the naked pictures." He said that malware writers knew that people are hungry for any information and users were only one click away from infecting their computers.

"You don't have to force this on anyone - people will actively be looking for the transcript on the internet, but they'll find this instead," said Newton.

Donal Casey, security consultant at Morse agreed and said that there was always an increase in malware attacks on the eve of the launch of any major book or film.

"The Harry Potter phenomenon provides the perfect opportunity with the secrecy about the outcome of the final instalment," said Casey. "Businesses should use technology such as content filtering to prevent malicious code being inadvertently downloaded onto PCs and educate employees that even something that is seemingly innocent could contain malicious content and they need to always be careful."

Other experts said that the leaking of the book online proved that nothing was safe from "digital piracy". John Desmond, vice president of encryption company SafeNet said that the publishing industry is the latest target.

"Lessons should be learned from other trades that have fallen victim to illegal copying and file sharing. The music and film industry has already adopted DRM technology to help combat piracy," he said.

Desmond said publishers should take a leaf out of their book. "Only by taking proactive measures to fight and closely monitor digital piracy can publishers protect their revenues - and ensure a happy ending for all concerned," he added.

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.