Homeland Security officials are warning the public to beware of email scams and possible cyberattacks related to Hurricane Irene and the upcoming 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
New bulletins issued in recent days by the Homeland Security Department's cybersecurity center said computer users should be wary of emails with subject lines referring to the recent hurricane or 9/11, even if they appear to come from reputable sources.
The emails could be so-called phishing scams that masquerade as legitimate requests for personal information or fundraising pleas and may include innocent-looking links to video or photos.
Clicking on the links could download harmful viruses or take users to malicious websites.
The National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center distributed the bulletins to federal, state and local officials as well as cybersecurity and critical infrastructure personnel. They were obtained by The Associated Press.
Asked about the warnings, Homeland Security spokesman Chris Ortman said cybercriminals routinely try to use high-profile events as a way to entice computer users to open links or attach files that will download malware into the user's computer system. In many cases, the malware can steal users' personal information, passwords or credit card details.
Internet users, he said, should be vigilant when opening emails that claim to be about major news events and are from unknown addresses.
People who believe they may have been a victim of a phishing attack can report it by sending an email to the DHS' Computer Emergency Readiness Team at: phishing-report(at)us-cert.gov.
Computer Emergency Readiness Team: http://www.us-cert.gov/
DHS Cybersecurity: http://www.dhs.gov/files/cybersecurity.shtm