Credit: Artem Furman/Shutterstock.com
Whenever there's a big news story, scammers and cyberthieves are quick to take advantage of Internet users' curiosity in order to plant malware on their computers and steal sensitive personal information.
The baby boy born yesterday (July 22) to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge — aka Prince William and the former Kate Middleton — is probably no exception.
So be very careful if you're Googling for news about the royal tot or for terms such as "royal baby photos" or "Princess Kate."
Online criminals carry out search engine poisoning to turn news-seekers into victims, using marketing techniques to boost phony links to supposedly exclusive items up to the top of Web search results.
But instead of being taken to real news or photos, victims often end up on corrupted or deliberately phony sites that can infect their computers.
Scammers do similar things with videos. Promises of "leaked" footage are common, but there's often a catch: You'll be asked to allow video-player "installers" or "updates" to be installed.
Instead of allowing a movie to play in your browser, the downloads could actually contain any number of nasty programs, including ransomware, spyware or other Trojans.
As of this writing, there are no legitimate images or videos of the infant prince on the Internet, so any links that purport to have them could be attempting to harm you.
Criminals also prey on celebrity news junkies in the form of phishing emails that promise "exclusive" information about a breaking story.
For example, the royal family has revealed the new prince's birth weight, but that's about all anybody knows so far. The public is clamoring to know the little guy's name, eye color and any other tiny detail.
Scammers feed off this hunger and may try to get the better of nosy news hounds by emailing to victims messages that claim to have links to secret details about the royal baby.
But the recipient will first have to take a survey, log in to Facebook (beware of fake login pages) or provide his name, address and credit-card number.
To avoid falling for attacks such as these, use good anti-virus software and pay attention where online links actually lead. (Don't click on any links in email messages you're not expecting.) If it looks suspicious, don't click on it.
Stick to major and trusted news sites. If anyone is going to have the latest scoop, it's probably not going to be confined to an obscure and fishy-looking website.
There are no reports of royal baby scams yet, but they're sure to come. Online criminals have had months to prepare for Kate and Will's big day.
"Sadly, it's almost inevitable," British security expert Graham Cluley wrote on Twitter about royal-baby scams. "It is going to be such a huge news story, the bad guys will jump on the bandwagon."