As far as cybersecurity is concerned, it may be more dangerous right now to be a Harry Potter fan than to be a government official.
That's because cybercriminals have been taking advantage of the huge swell of interest and excitement over Pottermore, the interactive virtual world gearing up for its official October launch. Overeager fans have allowed themselves to be subject to such risks as trojans, nefarious search engine hijinks, and fraudulent beta accounts.
Created by J. K. Rowling herself (in conjunction with Sony), the website is the interactive online equivalent of a "director's cut" of the Harry Potter novels. "Pottermore will be the place where fans of any age can share, participate in, and rediscover the stories," said Rowling in an announcement made on June 23. "It will also be the exclusive place to purchase digital audio books and, for the first time, e-books of the Harry Potter series." In addition, there will be a sizable user-generated content area and social networking component -- in other words, fans will be able to submit their own stories and artwork, and chat with each other.
However, October is still too far away for many, and some are jumping at the chance to get an early start. The highly-coveted beta memberships and sneak peeks -- such as those awarded to the winners of the “Magic Quill Contest” that ended on Saturday -- are an especially tasty prize for Potter fans.
"Early access accounts" have been available on eBay and other sites; in addition to being "expressly prohibited in The Magical Quill promotion Terms & Conditions" (according to the official Pottermore FAQ), it is also ripe for fraud. While eBay will protect bidders and buyers to a certain extent, it is by no means a guarantee -- and there are a number of less secure and protected sites on which such 'deals' are offered. Even if a user gets lucky (i.e., gets early access to the free website by paying $100 or more), they could still find themselves officially denied because the site asserts "the right to terminate any Pottermore accounts that are sold online."
The "free" ways to get supposed beta access are even more suspect. These include offers to pre-register (just give them your personal info) and links on sites like YouTube (with a helpful "Pottermore -- Beta access -- I Got In!" video to show fans exactly how to make themselves a target for the scam). The cybercriminals have even set up poisoned Google search results, with seemingly viable pages full of redirected links.
After clicking on one of any of these kinds of links, users should count themselves lucky if they simply wind up with nothing. More likely, they'll be asked for some personal information -- either as part of a borderline-legitimate marketing scheme or a wholly shady phishing scam. In the worst (and not at all unusual) case, the link will get the user a download full of good old-fashioned malware such as the classic "PC/ Mac Defender" type.
James Lee Phillips is a Senior Writer & Research Analyst for IBG.com. With offices in Dallas, Las Vegas, and New York, & London, IBG is quickly becoming the leading expert in Internet Marketing, Local Search, SEO, Website Development and Reputation Management. More information can be found at www.ibg.com. Dan Newlin is a former sheriff’s detective. He began practicing law with to help the injured. Attorney Dan Newlin and his team of professionals provided superior legal service for clients.