Phishers branch out in their targetting

Phishers have been branching out recently, moving on to new targets away from the traditional bank account scam. As users become more aware, and more banks roll out two factor authentication and other mitigations, scammers are having to move on to softer targets.

In the past few months we’ve seen two new targets, with different motivations. Both of these targets show trends in attacks as some targets become hardened.

First, many UK Universities have been hit with targetted phishing scams, usually claiming to come from “IT Support”. Any compromised accounts are then used to send out more spam. It’s a nice example of accounts being useful not so much for the information in them, but for the access they provide to other resources: bandwidth and credible email addresses

Second, as mentioned by Dancho Danchev in May in ZDNet and in June on his blog, job sites are coming under attack. Dancho posted about the selling of tools that scrape information from CVs posted to online sites. Now we are seeing more direct attacks, with phishing emails aimed at getting login details of users of and other job sites. Clearly gaining access to the information held on a job site is very useful to a scammer: it makes all sorts of nastiness easier.

It’s an arms race out there. Banks are now very quick at taking down phishing sites (see the recent blog from Ross Anderson’s group at Cambridge with links to stats on takedown), but other types of scams currently last much longer. If you’re one of the bad guys, it makes sense to go for the low hanging fruit. Why bother to steal someones online banking details when you can get more money for less work by stealing their identity? And why bother to go to lots of work to get their details when they have helpfully posted it on the web for you, all ready to use?


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