Internet Security News
Breaking news and updates in Internet security
Last Updated: December 12th, 2013 04:02:04 EST -0500
Facebook Becomes A Favorite Target Of Phishers
Due to widespread concerns about its thoughts on users' privacy, Facebook has been under all sorts of fire lately, facing criticism from U.S. senators, European data protection authorities, and many tech experts. Now, yet another problem's cropped up, as Facebook's been called a top target of phishers.
|Facebook Becomes A Favorite Target Of Phishers|
The Securelist division of Kaspersky Labs issued a report yesterday, and the identities of the top three organizations that have been targeted by phishers may not come as a surprise to anyone; they're PayPal (with 52.2 percent of all attacks aimed at it), eBay (with 13.3 percent), and HSBC (with 7.8 percent).
The report, which covered the period between January and March of this year, next stated, though, "Facebook popped up unexpectedly in fourth place. This was the first time since we started monitoring that attacks on a social networking site have been so prolific."
By way of explanation, the report then continued, "Having stolen users' accounts, the fraudsters can then use them to distribute spam, sending bulk emails to the account owners and their friends in the network. This method of distributing spam allows huge audiences to be reached. Additionally, it lets the fraudsters take advantage of the social networking sites' additional options, like being able to send different requests, links to photo's and invitations, all with the advertisement attached, both within the network and to users' inboxes."
Obviously, this isn't good news for Facebook's users or the security community as a whole. Facebook acts as a sort of point of entry to information about a whole lot of people (the social network had 400 million users in early February).
This isn't good news for Facebook, either, though - nothing that makes its users uncomfortable or unhappy, and therefore likely to leave, is - so perhaps we'll at least see the company make some attempt(s) to address this problem.
Anyway, if you're curious, the list of phishers' targets picked up after Facebook with Google, the IRS, Rapidshare, Bank of America, UBI, and Bradesco.
Google Goes After Impersonator Scammers
As huge corporations go, Google's a pretty cuddly one, but according to the search giant itself, everyone should be careful about offers of employment or wealth that involve its name. "Google Money" scammers represent a growing problem that the company is trying to combat.
|Google Goes After Impersonator Scammers|
A post on the Official Google Blog announced today, "[D]espite hundreds of consumer complaints and our own efforts to keep these sites from tricking people, some scams continue. To fight back, we're working to stop various fraudulent 'Google Money' schemes, and this week filed suit against Pacific WebWorks and several other unnamed defendants."
The post then added, "[W]e're still working constantly to remove scammy URLs from our index, and we'll permanently disable AdWords accounts that provide a poor or harmful user experience, whether or not they use Google's trademarks illegally."
The problem continues to exist, though.
So fair warning: The scams are known to operate under names like the Earn Google Cash Kit, Google Adwork, Google ATM, Google Biz Kit, Google Cash, Google Fortune, Google Marketing Kit, Google Profits, Google StartUp Kit, Google Works, and the Home Business Kit for Google. From there, they tend to be fairly standard make-money-from home affairs.
As always, stay sharp.
Senate Uncovers Online Credit Card Tricks
A report issued by a U.S. Senate committee only uses the word "scam" when quoting different consumers; the report's title employs the phrase "aggressive sales tactics," instead. Still, it looks like a number of big online companies have been caught profiting off people's confusion.
|Senate Uncovers Online Credit Card Tricks|
An investigation ordered by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV discovered that Affinion, Vertrue, and Webloyalty "gain access to online consumers by entering into financial agreements with reputable online websites and retailers," according to the official report.
Then, "[T]he three companies insert their sales offers into the 'post-transaction' phase of an online purchase, after consumers have made a purchase but before they have completed the sale confirmation process. These offers generally promise cash back rewards and appear to be related to the transaction the consumer is in the process of completing. Misleading 'Yes' and 'Continue' buttons cause consumers to reasonably think they are completing the original transaction, rather than entering into a new, ongoing financial relationship with a membership club operated by Affinion, Vertrue, or Webloyalty."
So individuals wind up paying $9 a month, and companies make millions. Millions upon millions, really. 1-800-Flowers.com, Buy.com, Priceline, and US Airways (among many others) were all given more than $10 million by Affinion, Vertrue, and Webloyalty. Barnes & Noble, eHarmony, and Pizza Hut received between $1 million and $10 million.
It's a bit scary to see this sort of trickery employed by such mainstream organizations. Hopefully the committee's report will force them to clean up their act.
McAfee: Cyberwarfare A Big Threat
It might not be long before we return to the days of schoolchildren diving under their desks in warfare preparedness drills. Only now, instead of hiding from nukes, the kiddos may be unplugging their computers, since McAfee has indicated that a cyberarms race is taking place.
|McAfee: Cyberwarfare A Big Threat|
Dave DeWalt, the president and CEO of McAfee, said in a statement, "[S]everal nations around the world are actively engaged in cyberwar-like preparations and attacks." These include China, France, Israel, Russia, and the U.S., and it's no secret that the members of this group aren't all on great terms.
What's more, cyberwarfare's barrier to entry is so low in comparison to traditional hostilities (a roomful of computers vs. thousands of men, tanks, and airplanes) that lots of other countries are almost sure to pursue the idea.
Then, if and when the virtual bullets start flying, things could get really nasty. McAfee reported, "Attackers are not only building their cyberdefenses, but cyberoffenses, targeting infrastructure such as power grids, transportation, telecommunication, finance and water supplies, because damage can be done quickly and with little effort."
At least this state of affairs would create a good job market for security professionals. Everybody else might benefit in a physical manner from the dive-and-unplug exercises, too.
ICSA Labs Finds Flaws In New Security Products
It's sometimes fun to be an early adopter, as the long lines and waitlists for things like iPhones and the new Camaro have proven. But where security products are concerned, do yourself a favor and let other folks go first, since a fresh report indicates that it can take more than a single try to get things right.
|ICSA Labs Finds Flaws In New Security Products|
ICSA Labs, which is based in Pennsylvania and has been around for 20 years, tests and sometimes certifies products. Emphasis on "sometimes."
An ICSA Labs Product Assurance Report indicated that just 4 percent of security products attain certification following a first round of testing. Most have to try again between one and three times before making the cut.
And it's not guaranteed that a product will ever meet the necessary standards, either. According to ICSA Labs, only about 82 percent of products attain certification in the end, meaning about one-fifth of all applicants (and perhaps a much larger percentage of products) aren't up to snuff.
So leave the shakedown cruises to less cautious individuals. Just repeat "patience is a virtue" a few times and read reviews while you're waiting, and remember that things will be less likely to blow up in your face when you finally get onboard.
Nigeria Announces Early Results Of Anti-Scammer Initiative
No one's sure how many there are to go, but according to a Nigerian official, there are about 800 scam email addresses and 18 criminals that can be considered "down." Mrs. Farida Waziri, the chairperson of a government agency, announced that some shutdowns and arrests occurred thanks to an initiative called Project Eagle Claw.
|Nigeria Announces Early Results Of Anti-Scammer Initiative|
Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is the force behind Project Eagle Claw, and with Microsoft's help, has just started ramping it up. Waziri explained in a statement, "We expect that Eagle Claw as conceived will be 100% operational within six months and at full capacity, it will take Nigeria out of the top 10 list of countries with the highest incidence of fraudulent e-mails."
She then gave some very interesting details, continuing, "[U]pon full deployment, the capacity to take down fraudulent e-mails will increase to 5,000 monthly. Further it is projected that advisory mails to be sent to victims and potential victims will be about 230,000 monthly."
Anything Nigeria can do to address the problem of scammers operating from within its borders will of course be good for the country's image. More than that, it might help honest Nigerians become part of the online world (since some entities have just taken to blocking troubled regions as a whole).
Then there will be the benefit to the rest of the world, with maybe millions of dollars not getting lost. For that reason, Project Eagle Claw is likely to gain a lot of fans.
MessageLabs Names Most- (And Least-) Spammed States
When considering where to live, it's wise to look up stats about an area's climate, the cost of living, and its proximity to other important stuff in your life. Symantec's MessageLabs recently supplied some information about your odds of getting spammed, too.
|MessageLabs Names Most- (And Least-) Spammed States|
Somewhat surprisingly, the states you might imagine as being the "most wired" - California, New York, Washington - weren't at the top of the list. Instead, the state in which spam represents the highest percentage of all emails received is Idaho, with 93.8 percent.
In an email to SecurityProNews, a Symantec/MessageLabs representative then listed the other top states (in order) as Kentucky, New Jersey, Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Maryland.
The U.S. territory of Puerto Rico wound up on the opposite end of the list, followed by Montana, Alaska, Kansas, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, and Florida.
We're not quite sure what to make of these findings; the states don't appear to be ordered according to Internet penetration rates, GDP per capita, overall population, physical size, or anything else. Still, if you're looking to move, now you have a better idea of how to decrease the odds of getting bombarded with spam at your new home.
Enormous Malware Archive Creates Stir
A Dutch company known as the Frame4 Group has created what's almost the computing equivalent of a Center for Disease Control lab. The Malware Distribution Project is, according to its own site, the "world's biggest private malware archive."
Don't jump to the conclusion that the project's run by a bunch of supervillains; the malware samples are supposed to be "offered for the purposes of analysis, testing and malware research."
|Enormous Malware Archive Creates Stir |
Also, customers are screened, and a monthly access fee of about $1,235 should act to keep out some of the riffraff.
It actually seems possible that the Malware Distribution Project could be of great help to the security community. When you consider that medical researchers don't have to wander from house to house, asking people if they have cancer, every time they want to start a new experiment, certain practices start to seem a little outdated.
There is a potential for problems, though. One nightmare scenario relates to the Malware Distribution Project's figurative walls failing and everything getting out. Having all of that malware run amuck at once - particularly if security researchers' computers were the first things it'd come across - would be bad.
Then there's the possibility that some unpleasant person would gain access to the Malware Distribution Project's archive and just sort of go on a shopping spree. This way, some relatively stupid hacker might be able to get his (or her) hands on the most sophisticated viruses in existence.
As you might imagine, the Malware Distribution Project is definitely proving divisive.
Anyway, at last count, the repository contained a whopping 3,336,503 files.
UPDATE (10-13-09): Anthony Aykut, the Managing Director of Frame4 Security Services, got in touch with SecurityProNews this morning to pass along some information. In an email, he wrote, "[T]he malware is neither downloadable via the web site or accessible in any other way via the www; in fact, the (secure) servers where the malware is stored (or analyzed/processed) is not even connected to the outside world."
Aykut also stressed that nothing is sold to the public, and added, "Largely due to the security measure(s) mentioned above, and also based on to the fact that the storage media are protected by biometric devices, getting access to the MD:Pro archive is, well, pretty impossible."
Avsim Hacker (Maybe) Brought Before Cops
Perhaps people who like to spend their spare time in the cockpits of imaginary F-16s should be left alone. The man in charge of a flight simulator site that was attacked claims to have identified the hacker and forwarded information to the authorities.
Avsim is one of the best-known flight sim communities in existence. It's been around for a long time, too. Unfortunately, a hacker managed to wipe about a decade's worth of modification info and forum posts from the site's servers back in May.
|Avsim Hacker (Maybe) Brought Before Cops |
Now, though, Tom Allensworth, the publisher and CEO of Avsim, has told the BBC, "We . . . have incontrovertible evidence of the individual that performed the hack. We have protected the forensic evidence and provided that evidence to the London police. We are committed to bringing justice to bear on this case."
Allensworth is confident in the outcome, too, adding, "We fully expect that the criminal complaint . . . will result in the perpetrator spending some time behind bars - under UK law." (Since Avsim's located in the US, this means he's not pushing for extradition or anything of that sort.)
Neither London's Metropolitan Police Service nor the accused individual (who hasn't been publicly named) has made any comment yet.
Email Password Hackers Present Real Threat
The next time you have something really important to tell someone, consider whether a drive over to his or her house wouldn't be a nice way of spending a few minutes. One reporter has found that it's quite easy (and perhaps all too common) for people to buy email accounts' passwords from hackers.
Tom Jackman wrote in an article for the Washington Post, "[S]ervices as YourHackerz.com are still active and plentiful, with clever names like 'piratecrackers.com' and 'hackmail.net.' They boast of having little trouble hacking into such Web-based e-mail systems as AOL, Yahoo, Gmail, Facebook and Hotmail, and they advertise openly."
|Email Password Hackers Present Real Threat |
Jackman found that prices for passwords range from around $30 to $100, which means that even the average ten-year-old can probably afford these hackers' services.
Plus, unless someone important is involved or things get rather serious, law enforcement isn't terribly likely to look into (or at least resolve) the matter, because accessing a computer without authorization is just a misdemeanor in most areas and tracking down a perpetrator can be difficult.
And it doesn't help, of course, that all of these facts have now been publicized in a widely-read newspaper.
So if you've got some nasty business rivals or psycho exes, at least try to play it safe by changing your password often for as long as you're in the person's sights. Then there's always the option of putting a few more miles on the odometer, too.