April 13, 2005 2:30 PM PDT
Bigger phishes ready to spawn
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mimicked antiphishing missives sent out from eBay and other companies, telling recipients that eBay would never ask for personal information in an e-mail and inviting them to log onto the company's site for more details.
By inserting the attempt among legitimate sites and incorporating antifraud rhetoric, phishers could pull in more targets, said Dan Ashby, a senior vice president at Mail-Filters.
"If a user clicked every link in the e-mail except the phishing link, they'd be taken to real eBay pages, some of which even offered advice on fighting phishing," Ashby said. "But all these guys need is for someone to become less observant and click that one fraudulent link and sign in, and the result would be the same. Phishers are getting smarter, and it's going to get even harder to separate real messages from the companies you do business with from the more advanced phishing schemes."
Pushing the tech envelope
In one style of attack, which has earned the nickname "pharming," online thieves try to redirect people from legitimate sites to malicious ones using "DNS poisoning." The scammers target the servers that act as the white pages of the Internet--a key part of cyberspace that's known as the domain name system, or DNS--and replace the numeric addresses of legitimate Web sites with the addresses of their malicious sites.
This sort of rapid adjustment is proof that more professional criminals and technologists have turned their attention to phishing, according to Paul Mutton, Internet services developer at Netcraft.
"The work has been getting much more professional over the last six months," Mutton said. "The attacks include a lot more clever tricks, like cross-site scripting, and other things that try to exploit browser vulnerabilities. The redirect sites might not be as technologically advanced as scripting, but they probably easier to set up and run, so there's a lot of thought going into this on the part of the thieves."
The answer for now is continue to educate businesses and consumers about the problem, the Anti-Phishing Working Group believes. The group hopes that better collaboration between the companies being targeted, law enforcement officials and government regulators will soon create better resources for fighting phishing.
"We need more industry cooperation about sharing information on attacks in a rapid manner--about where these attacks are coming from, about correlating that data, and taking the sites down," Jevans said. "We need better communication with law enforcement. Those guys are not yet equipped to deal with this stuff--they're focused on fraud in the real world. Tracking down (online) criminals is a lot different. There's no warehouse full of stolen goods when you're talking about information."
Without this collaboration, and even with better industrywide resources, phishing is a problem that's only just begun to rear its head, Jevans added.
"It's fair to say that there's no end in sight right now," he said. "Phishing will get worse--it's almost a certainty."
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