Cyber Criminals Bump Up Efficiency Using Cloud Services

In a comment response yesterday to regular reader Mal C., I made the point – “It’s the person at the keyboard, that’s where the trouble starts – not the OS”. Continuing the discussion with regular reader John B., I expanded on this –

“It’s the person at the keyboard, that’s where the trouble starts – not the OS”, is operative – no matter the operating system.

Just one example: Email accounts are continuously been phished (“your account will be deactivated”, is a popular approach), with the objective being to have the user respond with, password, DOB, mobile telephone number, etc.

If the phish is successful (and many are), the crook ends up controlling that account. Cyber crimes like this, are not system specific. They depend on unaware, undereducated users, for their success.”

As luck would have it, this morning I got an invitation from Commtouch, to post an upcoming article here on Tech Thoughts (which will be published on their site shortly), that partly supports this view.

Cloud Streamlines Efficiency of Identity Theft

Working with cloud-based services significantly improves economies of scale – for cybercriminals, too. Phishers are already benefiting from free hosting by hiding phishing pages within hacked legitimate sites.  Now, they are leveraging cloud-based form management sites, such as Google docs or to collect information from unwitting victims.

With this technique, the phisher does not have to worry about creating/managing/storing back-end form data and can more easily scale the harvesting of phished data.  Those duped into filling out the form will not be aware of this nuance.

We just hope victims are paying attention when they fill out a seemingly legitimate form that directly asks for an “email address password.” If their attention lags, they are giving the phisher a significant pay-off for a minimal investment: Identity theft.

This attack targets users of HomeAway holiday rentals – See the images below. Click on an image to expand.


A look at the page source reveals that the filled in form is sent to “” and not collected directly by the phisher. collects and stores all the responses to the “form” shown above, and then emails a neat summary to the phisher (whose login name is “fanek”).


As a matter of interest, WOT (Web of Trust) warns against visiting, as per the following screen capture.


As an aware and educated computer user, I know that you wouldn’t be deceived by this type of clumsy attempt to defraud – under no circumstances would you disclose your email address password to anyone.

As I said at the opening, these schemes depend on unaware, undereducated users, for their success. Unfortunately, that describes far to many Internet users.

About Commtouch:

Commtouch provides proven Internet security technology to more than 150 security companies and service providers including 1&1, Check Point, F-Secure, Google, Microsoft, Panda Security, Rackspace, US Internet, WatchGuard and Webroot,, for integration into their solutions. Commtouch’s GlobalView™ and patented Recurrent Pattern Detection™ (RPD™) technologies are founded on a unique cloud-based approach, and protect effectively in all languages and formats.  Commtouch’s Command Antivirus utilizes a multi-layered approach to provide award winning malware detection and industry-leading performance.

More information is available here.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.


Filed under Cloud Computing, Cyber Crime, Cyber Criminals, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, email scams, Freeware, Internet Security Alerts, Online Safety, Phishing, Windows Tips and Tools, WOT (Web of Trust)

4 responses to “Cyber Criminals Bump Up Efficiency Using Cloud Services

  1. Mal

    Hey Bill,
    It’s amazing how many popular sites do ask for your email password, so you can quickly add/invite your friends. Bad practice in my opinion. I’m also not a very big fan of cloud services. I know it’s all the rage at the moment, but I don’t feel comfortable with it at all, and I don’t think I ever will. Probably old fashioned, but that’s me.

  2. John Bent

    Hi Bill,

    This is quite scary. I would certainly be careful about giving password details but I can easily see how others could be misled, particularly if it was a site they were used to using. I suppose another clue is that it is not a secure (https) website and this should also ring alarm bells.

    Just proves that the bad guys are always one step ahead while the rest of us play catch-up. The user needs to get it right all the time whereas the attacker needs to get it right only once to succeed.

    Kind regards

    • Hi John,

      Great takeaway from your comment – “The user needs to get it right all the time whereas the attacker needs to get it right only once to succeed.”

      The following is a comment from another site that restates what I encounter every day. Experienced users will occasionally argue that this view is overly pessimistic, but it’s not – this is the real state of the Internet.

      “Stupid people will be stupid regardless of the OS. You can’t fix stupid. And it’s not that they are “stupid” really, they just don’t know any better and/or don’t care to learn. You have to remember that your average mom/pop/grandparent/youngster just wants to get online and email and send pictures and videos of their family/friends/dog/cat/vacation to all their family and friends. They don’t know what half the warning windows and programs do on their computer and don’t care, they just want it to work and have a repeatable process on how to open their browser, go to a page, check their email, and upload said pictures or videos. Heck, most just want and even rely upon a few specific icons on their desktop. If the icon isn’t there or changes, it’s broken for them.”