Skip to main content
You Can Bank on It

If you’re a little worried about eating Scottish Salmon, then you’ve probably more reason to be concerned by another other type of ‘Phishing’ story which is on the increase, that of trying to hook bank account details from the unwary.

Last year saw a dramatic rise in the number of phishing attacks against banks and it’s increasingly hard to find a financial institution which hasn’t been targeted at least once. Phishing is of course an attempt to steal a user’s account information and this normally involves a redirection to a bogus website and frequently, an attempt to install some kind of spyware or key logger on the victim’s personal computer

My own bank, Barclays, has even taken the sensible step of changing its security to incorporate ‘drop down’ dialogue boxes, so rather than typing in my favourite password, I have to select the letters, one by one, to defeat the risk of someone in Riga or Romania capturing my keystrokes.

Most of us reading Computer Weekly are sufficiently ‘security-savvy’ not to be deceived by most email frauds. However, a well-publicised weakness in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer allows a fraudster, through URL encoding, to obscure the name of a bogus website and make it appear to be legitimate, that is unless you bother to take a good close look at the source code link, which very few people would think of doing. This is of course URL spoofing and this month’s attempt to deceive Citibank customers arrives with a beautifully crafted message in perfect business English and a credible URL https// – I have made a small change to avoid anyone following the link and downloading something unpleasant.

The same attention to detail can be seen in the latest bogus Barclays email, which asks, “As part of our continuing commitment to protect your account and to reduce the instance of fraud on our website, we are undertaking a period review of our member accounts. You are requested to visit our site by following the link given below”.

This resolves to,,logon,00.php but the phishers have encoded the email in hexadecimal so that it appears as and would deceive any but the most expert of suspicious customers.

It’s a huge problem and there’s no easy solution in sight. Regardless of assurances from his bank, the average person really can’t be sure that what he is reading in his inbox actually comes from his bank anymore. Even the expression, “Safe as the Bank of England” no longer applies following the well-publicised Bank of England email scam before Christmas.

I doubt it will be long before some bright criminal tries to URL spoof the Inland Revenue. I suspect that if people receive a convincing enough message from that quarter, particularly around the January tax deadline, many would do exactly as instructed and I am only surprised that it hasn’t been tried yet.

Welcome to 2004 the year of living dangerously.


Popular posts from this blog

Civilisational Data Mining

It’s a new expression I haven’t heard before. ‘Civilisational data mining.’

Let me start by putting it in some context. Every character, you or I have typed into the Google search engine or Facebook over the last decade, means something, to someone or perhaps ‘something,’ if it’s an algorithm.

In May 2014, journalists revealed that the United States National Security Agency, the NSA, was recording and archiving every single cell-phone conversation that took place in the Bahamas. In the process they managed to transform a significant proportion of a society’s day to day interactions into unstructured data; valuable information which can of course be analysed, correlated and transformed for whatever purpose the intelligence agency deems fit.

And today, I read that a GOP-hired data company in the United States has ‘leaked’ personal information, preferences and voting intentions on… wait for it… 198 million US citizens.

Within another decade or so, the cost of sequencing the human genome …

The Nature of Nurture?

Recently, I found myself in a fascinating four-way Twitter exchange, with Professor Adam Rutherford and two other science-minded friends The subject, frequently regarded as a delicate one, genetics and whether there could exist an unknown but contributory genetic factor(s) or influences in determining what we broadly understand or misunderstand as human intelligence.

I won’t discuss this subject in any great detail here, being completely unqualified to do so, but I’ll point you at the document we were discussing, and Rutherford’s excellent new book, ‘A Brief History of Everyone.”

What had sparked my own interest was the story of my own grandfather, Edmond Greville; unless you are an expert on the history of French cinema, you are unlikely to have ever hear of him but he still enjoys an almost cult-like following for his work, half a century after his death.

I've been enjoying the series "Genius" on National Geographic about the life of Albert Einstein. The four of us ha…
The Mandate of Heaven

eGov Monitor Version

“Parliament”, said my distinguished friend “has always leaked like a sieve”.

I’m researching the thorny issue of ‘Confidence in Public Sector Computing’ and we were discussing the dangers presented by the Internet. In his opinion, information security is an oxymoron, which has no place being discussed in a Parliament built upon the uninterrupted flow of information of every kind, from the politically sensitive to the most salacious and mundane.

With the threat of war hanging over us, I asked if MPs should be more aware of the risks that surround this new communications medium? More importantly, shouldn’t the same policies and precautions that any business might use to protect itself and its staff, be available to MPs?

What concerns me is that my well-respected friend mostly considers security in terms of guns, gates and guards. He now uses the Internet almost as much as he uses the telephone and the Fax machine and yet the growing collective t…