Pop Tarts

'Twilight: Eclipse' Mania Triggers Wave of Cyber Crimes

June 24: 'Twilight' stars Taylor Lautner, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson pose for cameras at the premiere of the film.

June 24: 'Twilight' stars Taylor Lautner, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson pose for cameras at the premiere of the film.  (Reuters)

To refer to the “Twilight” franchise as an international success story would be an under statement, as the film series spawned from Stephanie Meyer’s best-selling books has created nothing short of a global phenomenon.

So it comes as no surprise that millions of “Twi-hards” have been unable to contain their curiosity for the third installment “Eclipse,” which was released domestically at midnight on Wednesday, and have taken to the Web to search for information about their favorite vampire series. But in doing so, a large majority have been bitten by the poisonous “malware” traps set up by cyber criminals.

Internet security leaders Norton noted a prominent spike this week in contaminated search results for “Twilight: Eclipse” – with some common searches returning more than 50 percent malicious results. This means that web surfers have more than a one-in-two chance of clicking on a link that can unleash viruses, key logging programs (where criminals can monitor everything you type), and an array of other nasty computer bugs causing trouble for users.

SLIDESHOW: The Cast of the 'Twilight Saga'

And sorry Edwardians, if you thought a link or e-mail promising “Nude Pictures of Rob Pattinson” was too good to be true, you’re probably right. The sensational headline has become one of the primary phrases designed by cyber criminals to lure in unsuspecting prey, and in effect collectively cost users hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.

Furthermore, if you were thinking you could escape the crazy cinema crowds and indulge in “Eclipse” right from the comforts of your very own bedroom this weekend, think again.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) announced the launch Wednesday of "Operation In Our Sites," a new initiative targeting Internet counterfeiting and piracy, otherwise known by law as the theft of intellectual property (IP).

As the first action executed in the initiative, authorities administered seizure warrants against nine domains that offered up new movies, often within a few hours of theatrical releases. In addition, agents from Homeland Security seized 15 bank, PayPal, investment and advertising accounts linked to these sites. 

"We are dedicated to protecting the jobs, the income and the tax revenue that disappears when organized criminals traffic in stolen movies for their own profit,” ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton, told an audience of major entertainment industry power players during a press conference in Los Angeles on Wednesday. 

Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, whose office handled the seizure warrants of seven domain names, echoed such a sentiment.

"Criminal copyright infringement occurs on a massive scale over the Internet, reportedly resulting in billions of dollars in losses to the U.S. economy," he said in a statement. “That translates into lost jobs and real hardships for ordinary working people. That's why we took the actions we did. If your business model is movie piracy, your story will not have a happy ending."

Hollie McKay has been a FoxNews.com staff reporter since 2007. She has reported extensively from the Middle East on the rise and fall of terrorist groups such as ISIS in Iraq. Follow her on twitter at @holliesmckay