Hackers are looking to exploit the hype surrounding Michael Wolff's new book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, to spread malicious malware, security researchers have reportedly found.
Kaspersky Labs researcher Michael Molsner first highlighted a piece of malware found on a pirated version of the controversial tell-all on US President Donald Trump and his presidency that has been making waves in Washington.
Molsner highlighted the malware in a tweet on Friday, saying: "Sometimes we come across strange malware." In this case, the malicious file included a PDF version of Fire and Fury along with a Windows executable file that could give an attacker remote back-door access to an unsuspecting victim's device, the Daily Beast first reported.
While digital versions sold by official eBook retailers such as Amazon and Apple among others are not affected, free and unauthorised copies of the book found on torrenting sites and floating around social media may be infected with this malicious software, the Daily Beast noted.
This compromised PDF version of the book also had just 237 pages, rather than 328 pages in the official version. According to tests conducted by the Daily Beast, a sample of the malware was detected by multiple antivirus programmes.
Earlier in January, Julian Assange's whistleblowing site WikiLeaks also tweeted a link to a Google Drive containing the full text of Fire and Fury. While WikiLeaks' tweet is still live, the link now leads to an error message saying it cannot be accessed due to a violation of Google's terms of service.
Hackers frequently look to target and exploit curious users by tapping into trending issues, events in the news and widely publicised events in their attacks.
"It is very difficult to determine if a PDF is unsafe, unless the user is able to analyse the file with the tools normally used by malware analysts," Giovanni Vigna, co-founder and CTO at security firm Lastline told IBTimes UK. "This is why the users should use anti-malware tools with every document they open.
"Cybercriminals using PDF books for this purpose is not very common, as the level of interest is usually low. However, this book has had such publicity that it made sense to the cybercriminals to create a weaponised version."
Since its release on 5 January, Fire and Fury has soared to the top of the charts on Amazon and is quickly flying off the shelves after it was released early to meet "unprecedented demand". The book features some provocative excerpts and anecdotes about Trump and close aides, including multiple quotes attributed to Trump's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon.
It paints a picture of a troubled and dysfunctional White House and portrays Trump as mentally unfit for office.
The White House has since blasted the explosive book as "trash" and "full of lies". President Trump has also slammed Fire and Fury along with its author Wolff in numerous tweets referring to it as a "fake book".
"So much Fake News is being reported," Trump tweeted on 13 January. "They don't even try to get it right or correct it when wrong. They promote the Fake Book of a mentally deranged author, who knowingly writes false information. The Mainstream Media is crazed that WE won the election."