Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Identity thieves’ "phishing" attacks could soon get a lot nastier

18.10.2004



"Phishing" e-mails appear to be sent by legitimate businesses, but are actually created and distributed by thieves who are trying to steal personal information. Photo by: David Bricker


The number of people who succumb to identity thieves’ "phishing" e-mails could go way up if immediate action isn’t taken to preempt the next generation of attacks, according to Markus Jakobsson, an Indiana University School of Informatics researcher.

A report by cybersecurity expert Jakobsson describing worst-case phishing scenarios was recently cited by Howard Schmidt, chief information security officer for eBay Inc., during his testimony before a U.S. Congressional subcommittee on government reform. The report has also been presented to members of the U.S. Government Accountability Office and the Cyber Security Industry Alliance, based in Washington, D.C.

"I came up with the worst kind of attacks I could think of and then worked on how to defend against them," said Jakobsson, who is associate director of IU’s Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research. "Phishers haven’t invented these attacks yet, but the phishing attacks that are happening now are getting more and more sophisticated."



Today’s phishing e-mails are already pretty tricky. Many spoof legitimate companies’ domain names by linking not to legitimate domain names, such as "ebay.com," but to misleading domain names, like "secure-ebay.com," which are owned by phishers. Some users, encountering fake Web sites that look real, unwittingly give away vital personal information such as social security numbers, bank account numbers, access codes, usernames and passwords. Another version of phishing takes advantage of the fact that many users configure their e-mail clients to display pictures and text formatting within the messages. This makes it possible for phishers to show users the name of a legitimate domain name within the body of their e-mails -- while linking to a differently named Web site.

Phishing messages that appear to be sent by such trusted companies as eBay, Citibank and others are currently duping 3 percent of the people who receive them, according to a recent survey by Gartner Inc. Aware of the threat, members of Congress are currently debating passage of the Internet Spyware Prevention Act, which would provide the Justice Department with $10 million to apprehend phishers and other online scam artists.

Jakobsson said preliminary data suggest that savvier, "context-aware" phishing attacks could have success rates as high as 50 percent. Context-aware attacks, as Jakobsson envisions them, would take advantage of users’ unique circumstances or personal relationships.

One kind of context-aware attack Jakobsson describes tricks eBay bidders into giving out identifying information by leading bidders to believe they’ve won an auction. He also explains how eBay sellers can be victimized by context-aware attacks in which false payments lure sellers to give out their passwords.

In another kind of context-aware attack, a potential victim might receive a message from a known person -- for example, a friend or loved one -- asking him or her to go to a Web site to update banking information. But how would a phisher know who was related to whom and how? "There are personal and business networking Web sites out there, such as orkut.com, where users’ relationships are easily seen," Jakobsson said. "A phisher can find out whether a person in your ’personal network’ list is a wife, a husband, a sister or a business associate, and take advantage of that."

In a third kind of context-aware attack, the phisher first creates a believable (but fictitious) problem with a user’s online account and then asks for a user’s personal information to fix it. By analogy, current e-mail attacks are like phone repair personnel showing up out of the blue, claiming a potential victim’s phone lines aren’t working, when the victim can easily tell they are. "But now imagine I, the attacker, actually cut your telephone lines," Jakobsson explained. "I wait for you to notice. Then I show up, claiming to be there to fix the problem. I appear legitimate and everything seems consistent, so you invite me onto your property. Whenever you get e-mails requesting personal information, no matter what the circumstances, be skeptical, even if what you’re seeing appears legitimate."

Jakobsson admitted the scenarios may instill some paranoia, but he is joined by eBay’s Schimidt and others in his assessment that such context-aware attacks are inevitable. To combat the problem, Jakobsson believes users, online businesses and government must get involved. "A number of us are recommending changes in the way eBay and others display online information," Jakobsson said. "Personal information should only be displayed publicly on Web sites if it is absolutely necessary, or if a user gives his or her specific assent, knowing the risks. Government can help by requesting or requiring these changes. And of course there must be a public awareness campaign."

The report, "Modeling and Preventing Phishing Attacks," is currently being considered for the International Financial Cryptography Association’s annual meeting in February 2005. Copies of the paper are available to journalists and scholars only upon request. The research was supported by RSA Laboratories in Bedford, Mass.

Jakobsson is part of a group at IU that develops technological counter-measures to phishing and other types of Internet fraud. Members of the group are currently working on authentication software that would protect users from unknowingly entering PINs, usernames and passwords at illegitimate Web sites.

David Bricker | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.indiana.edu

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Construction of practical quantum computers radically simplified
05.12.2016 | University of Sussex

nachricht UT professor develops algorithm to improve online mapping of disaster areas
29.11.2016 | University of Tennessee at Knoxville

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

NTU scientists build new ultrasound device using 3-D printing technology

07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

The balancing act: An enzyme that links endocytosis to membrane recycling

07.12.2016 | Life Sciences

How to turn white fat brown

07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>