Fake bitcoin ad featuring actress Rebecca Lim hides URLs to evade detection, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Fake bitcoin ad featuring actress Rebecca Lim hides URLs to evade detection

Local artiste Rebecca Lim is yet another public figure here to have become the face of a bitcoin investment scam without her knowledge.

Since early January, The Straits Times has repeatedly seen on a reputable regional news site an advertisement with a picture of the award-winning actress captioned “Rebecca Lim shared very important news”.

The ad supposedly leads to a sponsored article on entertainment portal 8days.sg. But when viewers click on the link, they are directed to a fake news story about Lim, 37, finding a “new wealth loophole which he (sic) says can transform anyone into a millionaire within three to four months”.

The page, which mimics news website CNA, has links to a supposed crypto auto-trading programme called Bitcoin Future, which the scammers claim is the actress’ No. 1 money-maker.

In the past few years, there have been many crypto trading scams that use unauthorised images and fabricated quotes of local personalities such as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, business magnate Peter Lim and pop star JJ Lin.

Cyber-security firm Group-IB published a study in 2020 on a series of similar scams “fronted” by well-known Singaporeans, and reported the pages to the Singapore Cyber Emergency Response Team.

In the case of the recently surfaced scam page with Rebecca Lim, an average person would find it harder to flag it to the authorities.

Its displayed URL leads to a dummy website with an article about Lim’s pregnancy, while its real URL is hidden in the codebase.

To retrieve the real URL, one must trawl through many lines of codes, which requires time and some expertise.

Mr Vladimir Kalugin, the operations director of digital risk protection at cyber-security firm Group-IB, told The Straits Times that scammers have been “enhancing their evasion techniques to hide their campaigns from the authorities and conventional detection tools”.

Some of them use website redirection or other methods to change the URL of a scam page without reloading its content.

Others use a camouflage technique called cloaking, where only targeted users are served the fraudulent and malicious content, while everyone else who visits the same page is served harmless content such as a 404 error page, said Mr Kalugin, who is based in Singapore.

Scammers have also learnt to prevent crawlers and other Internet bots from accessing their ad content, he added. This makes it harder for the pages to be detected by automated anti-scam tools.

“To counteract these techniques, authorities and cyber-security experts must work together to embrace advanced monitoring and takedown methods, and increase public awareness of potential online threats,” Mr Kalugin said.