Tag Archives: inbox

URL Shortening Sites Target Email Weakness

imageSites like Tinyurl.com and Bitly.com are the go-to places for Tweeters who do not want long URLs to eat up their typing space. However, shortened URLs have a second, more insidious use. They allow spammers and hackers past the old email filters and into your inbox.

Most email anti-spam engines were created before the use of embedded URLs in emails, not to mention shortened ones. Most anti-spam programs try to trace back the URL to see if the site is dangerous. However, a shortened URL can be used by hackers two ways.

The first way is simple. They plug the site they want you to get directed to into one of the known and trusted URL shortening sites available for free to the public. Because the URL shortening site is trusted, the link is trusted. However, the link does not take you to the URL shortening site; it takes you where it was originally directed.

Secondly, hackers get even more creative. Once the anti-spam filters get around the URL shortening sites, as some have done, hackers create their own URL shortening sites. Essentially, they shorten a site that’s already shortened. So, when you click on the link, you get redirected not once, but twice. The first redirection is safe, the next is a hackers.

This was “yet another example” of cyber-criminals adopting new technology to bypass traditional security measures, said Bradley Anstis, vice-president of technical strategy at M86.

“A lot of the traditional anti-spam engines were developed before Twitter, so they are not geared up to recognize embedded URLs as seen in blended email threats in spam, let alone shortened URLs that link to malicious, or compromised Web pages,” Anstis said.

Some frightening statistics:

In May 2011, the global ratio of spam in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources increased by 2.9 percentage points since April 2011 to 75.8% (1 in 1.32 emails).
The global ratio of email-borne viruses in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources was one in 222.3 emails (0.450 percent) in May, a decrease of 0.143 percentage points since April. (From Net-security.org)

So, what can you do to protect yourself? For one, never click on an email link if you do not trust the sender. Two, even if you do trust the sender, try to get to the link organically, meaning follow the normal method. If you are checking on a shipment, go through the main website instead of clicking on the link. These simple tricks will help to keep your computer and information safe from hackers.

Author Bio

This Guest post is by Christine Kane from internet service providers. She is a graduate of Communication and Journalism. She enjoys writing about a wide-variety of subjects for different blogs. She can be reached via email at: Christi.Kane00 @ gmail.com.

Update:

Here’s a super tip from anarchy4ever – “Some people may call me paranoid but I NEVER click on shortened url links. People should use url enlarger sites such as this one:
http://url-enlarger.appspot.com/

Just a personal observation – anarchy4ever is far from being paranoid – sounds like a very sensible solution.

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Filed under cybercrime, Email, Guest Writers, Hackers, internet scams, Twitter

McDonalds “Fillet O’ Phishing” Survey Scam

image Would you fill out an email survey, sponsored by McDonalds – if they paid you 250 dollars for completing it? I’ll go out on a limb here and say – yes you would. Just like most offers that sound overly attractive though – this offer is a scam.

This scam is not only plausible, but in appearance, it could easily pass for the real thing. Jump into this one though, and you’ll stand a good chance of losing your credit card information. So, no 250 dollars; just a real messy credit cleanup to look forward to.

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Filling out the survey form really isn’t the hook – that comes later.

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Clicking on the “proceed” link (this is where you supposedly get the 250 bucks), opens the following screen. All you have to do is provide your credit card details and additional personal information.

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If, at this point, you don’t hear a loud warning bell resonating in your head – you’re about to become a cyber crime victim.

To add credibility (and reduce suspicion), victims of this scam are automatically redirected to the official McDonalds site – once the victim’s credit card details have been scooped by the crooks.

In August of 2010, when I first reported on this scam, which was then being “test marketed” by the cyber crooks in New Zealand and Australia, I made the following point –

The rest of us (non Australian or New Zealanders), shouldn’t be complacent because, for the moment, this scam is appearing only in that part of the world. If this scam works there, and I suspect it will work very well, there’s little doubt it will soon be on it’s way to you’re inbox.

Well, here it is in North America and according to the chat on the Net, this time out, the graphics on the survey and phishing pages are loaded directly from McDonald’s own website. You can rightfully accuse cyber crooks of being the lowest form of pond scum imaginable – but you can’t accuse them of not being technically sophisticated.

It’s the same old, same old, though – the first time I came across this scam was in 2006. This type of scam is recycled repeatedly – because it works. Reasonably intelligent people do get trapped by sophisticated scams. Due, in large part, to their failure to take minimum common sense security precautions. Don’t be one of them.

Advice worth repeating:

If you have any doubts about the legitimacy of any email message, or its attachment, delete it.

Better yet, take a look at the email’s headers. Check the initial “Received from” field in the header, since this field is difficult to forge. Additionally, the mail headers indicate the mail servers involved in transmitting the email – by name and by IP address.

It may take a little practice to realize the benefits in adding this precaution to your SOP, but it’s worth the extra effort if you have any concerns.

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Filed under cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, email scams, Malware Reports, Phishing, Windows Tips and Tools

Aussie or Kiwi? – Stay Clear Of This McDonald’s Survey Phishing Scam

image Would you fill out a survey, sponsored by McDonald’s, if they paid you 90 dollars for doing it? I’ll go out on a limb here and say – yes you would.  🙂  Just like most offers that sound overly attractive though – this offer is a scam.

Jump into this one, and you’ll stand a good chance of losing your credit card information. So, no 90 dollars; just a real messy credit cleanup to look forward to.

According to Symantec Hosted Services unit, MessageLabs Intelligence, this scam (so far limited to Australia and New Zealand), is not only plausible, but in appearance, it could easily pass for the real thing.

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Image courtesy of Symantec.

Filling out the survey form really isn’t the hook – that comes later. Clicking on the “proceed” link (this is where you get the 90 bucks), opens the following screen.

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Image courtesy of Symantec.

If, at this point, you don’t hear a loud WTF, resonating in your head – you’re about to become a cyber crime victim.

The rest of us (non Australian or New Zealanders), shouldn’t be complacent because, for the moment, this scam is appearing only in that part of the world. If this scam works there, and I suspect it will work very well, there’s little doubt it will soon be on it’s way to you’re inbox.

For additional information on this scam checkout Nick Johnston’s Blog post over at the Symantec Hosted Services Blog.

About Message Labs Intelligence:

Symantec’s Message Labs Intelligence is a respected source of data and analysis for messaging security issues, trends and statistics. MessageLabs Intelligence provides a range of information on global security threats based on live data feeds from our control towers around the world scanning billions of messages each week.

About Symantec:

Symantec is a global leader in providing security, storage and systems management solutions to help consumers and organizations secure and manage their information-driven world.  Our software and services protect against more risks at more points, more completely and efficiently, enabling confidence wherever information is used or stored. More information is available here.

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Filed under Windows Tips and Tools