Tuesday Dec. 20 8:45 a.m. ET: The first instances of Kim Jong Il malware have indeed been found. Details at end of text.
What happens when a famously evil man dies? Lesser evil men get to work creating online scams.
Phishers, credit-card cloners and identity thieves will be busy today, searching for ways to take advantage of interest in the life and sudden death of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il.
"Kim Jong Il, general secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, chairman of the National Defense Commission of the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] and supreme commander of the Korean People's Army, passed away of a sudden illness at 08:30 on December 17, Juche 100 (2011) on his way to field guidance," read a statement by the official North Korean news agency that was released today (late Sunday in North America).
The violent deaths of Osama bin Laden and Moammar Gadhafi earlier this year brought out serious creativity by online scammers, many of whom posted fake videos purporting to show footage of their grisly ends.
Kim's apparently peaceful death won't hold such shock appeal, but be wary of any link you come across, especially on Facebook or via Google search, that offers to show you "exclusive" pictures of Kim's body, his collection of imported liquor or his rumored bevy of mistresses.
Phony Google or Twitter links about Kim may take you to sites bearing "drive-by downloads" that can infect PCs just by viewing the page; phony Facebook links can hijack your friends list or "Like" button, spreading the scam further across the social-networking site.
It isn't even far-fetched to think that the government of North Korea itself might try to profit from Kim's death. The so-called "hermit kingdom" has been suspected of trafficking in drugs and counterfeit currency for several years.
If in doubt about a link, go instead to the homepage of a reputable news site; Kim will be on the front page for the next few days.
If you're just interested in laughs, the Tumblr blog " Kim Jong-Il Looking at Things " should do nicely.
And, as always, make sure you have your computer's firewall turned on, your anti-virus software updated and your regular user account set as "limited" rather than "administrator."
UPDATE: The computer-security firm Trend Micro reported Tuesday morning (Dec. 20) that spam emails purporting to be about Kim's death have begun to appear. The subject lines may vary, but the emails have PDFs or Word documents attached, which of course hide malicious Trojans that infect your computer while you pay tribute to the Dear Leader.