January 21, 2005

Internet 'Phishing' Scams Getting More Devious

There are about 10 articles a day on phishing, so I don't read them. What else is there to say that hasn't been said since years ago? Including the fact that it gets better and better, it's enough to drive a security guy to drink. Anyway, here's a good summary article to set a flag on the date, and an even briefer summary paragraph:

57 million americans, 122 "brands", organised crime, DNS redirection attacks, half based on spyware, convergance, get a hardware token, and this corker of a closing argument:

"Internet engineers should also figure out a way to authenticate Web addresses, much as they are currently figuring out how to make sure e-mail addresses are legitimate, he said."

Wed Jan 19, 3:03 PM ET

Internet 'Phishing' Scams Getting More Devious
By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Internet "phishing" scams are becoming more difficult to detect as criminals develop new ways to trick consumers into revealing passwords, bank account numbers and other sensitive information, security experts say.

Scam artists posed as banks and other legitimate businesses in thousands of phishing attacks last year, sending out millions of "spam" e-mails with subject lines like "account update needed" that pointed to fraudulent Web sites.

These attacks now increasingly use worms and spyware to divert consumers to fraudulent sites without their knowledge, experts say.

"If you think of phishers initially as petty thieves, now they're more like an organized crime unit," said Paris Trudeau, senior product manager for Internet-security firm SurfControl.

Phishing attacks have reached 57 million U.S. adults and compromised at least 122 well-known brands so far, according to several estimates.

At the end of 2004 nearly half of these attacks contained some sort of spyware or other malicious code, Trudeau said.

One attack, first documented last month by the Danish security firm Secunia, misdirects Web surfers by modifying a little-known directory in Microsoft Windows machines called a host file. When an Internet user types a Web address into a browser, he is directed instead to a fraudulent site.

This technique has shown up in attacks spoofing several South American banks, said Scott Chasin, chief technical officer of the security firm MX Logic.

The convergence of all of these threats means "we can expect to see some large attacks in the near term," he said.

Another more ambitious attack targets the domain-name servers that serve as virtual telephone books, matching domain names with numerical addresses given to each computer on the Internet.


If one of those computers is compromised, Internet users who type in "www.bankofamerica.com" could be directed to a look-alike site run by identity thieves.

Domain-name servers are tougher to crack, as they are typically run by businesses rather than home users, but hackers can find a way in by posing as a company's tech-support department and asking new employees for their passwords, Trudeau said.

Domain-name hijacking is suspected in incidents involving Google.com, Amazon.com, eBay Germany and HSBC Bank of Brazil, Chasin said.

Even straightforward phishing attacks are getting more sophisticated. Spelling errors and mangled Web addresses made early scams easy to spot, but scam artists now commonly include legitimate-looking links within their Web addresses, said Kate Trower, associate product manager of protection software for EarthLink Inc.

Consumers who click on links like www.citibank.com in these messages are directed to a fraudulent Web address buried in the message's technical code, she said.

MasterCard International has caught at least 10 phishing scams involving www.mastercard.com over the past two months, said Sergio Pinon, senior vice president of security and risk services.

Consumers can protect themselves with software that screens out viruses, spyware and spam. But online businesses will have to take steps as well, perhaps by issuing customers a physical token containing a changing password, Chasin said.

Internet engineers should also figure out a way to authenticate Web addresses, much as they are currently figuring out how to make sure e-mail addresses are legitimate, he said.

Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

Posted by iang at January 21, 2005 07:13 AM | TrackBack

Hello iang,

I have a full copy of what you are describing here. We snagged it from a client right after they rootkit'd one of our servers with it internally from a hosting account.

Its got an installer and a readme even...

fun stuff... we had to write counteractive scripts to unwind the mess across a couple hundred http sites not to mention the wreck it made out of the root files.

This one spawned from windows but now can work over linux via openssh or sendmail etc.

Posted by: KKKK at January 21, 2005 08:40 AM
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