Skip to main content
A Phishy Story

Phishing, using hijacked corporate logos and deceptive spam to steal personal information over the Internet, appears to have taken a more sinister turn. Reported Phishing attacks against well-known on-line brands such a Citibank, PayPal and eBay appear to be running as high as two hundred a month and none of the leading UK Internet banks and building societies remains untouched by increasingly imaginative criminals who can create near perfect digital copies of the website of the business they are targeting all the way down to the SSL key-lock on the browser.



A week ago, I’m told, something new and different appears to have happened in a phishing scam involving one of the UK’s largest banks. In fact, on the same day, two high street banks were targeted with elaborate scams but one introduced a new dimension to the crime.

In this case, the web site was so perfect that I doubted at first that it was a fake. All the links to the bank’s service worked perfectly and the only suspicious difference was that on asking for the user account and password details, it came back with a “Sorry try again” message, with a different combination of the secret password letter sequence to complete or enough to harvest the user password in a couple of attempts.

This is not unusual, it’s how these scams work and some are more subtle than others and outside of this, the spoofed URL, when it was examined, using Visual Route, resolved to an address in Anchorage Alaska, via a hosting service in France and New York. However, even with our banks enthusiastically outsourcing much of work abroad, it’s hard to imagine that a leading UK bank would have its website in Alaska.

A little deeper investigation and a conversation with one of the UK’s leading security experts revealed something unusual though. This time the website didn’t appear to be ‘Hosted’ in the proper sense, in a location where the FBI could break down the door, make arrests and pull the plug on the scam. What worried my friend was that this appeared to be the first evidence of organised crime using peer-to-peer (p2p) computing and the expanding domestic broadband network to host the spoof bank site.

“You might think it’s in Anchorage”, he told me, “But it’s not. It’s rather like using a file sharing service like Kazaa, something we’ve been worrying might happen”. “The criminals”, he said, “Can move the domain address of the site around and rather like Alice in Wonderland’s Cheshire cat, it can disappear and pop up somewhere else, on a PC perhaps with an open back door caused by a virus”.

On both sides of the firewall, viruses and worms are increasingly exploiting network security weaknesses and the thought that organised crime might be starting to harness the power of hundreds of thousands ‘zombie’ PCs is a deeply worrying one. In the UK alone, it’s been estimated that as much as 5% of the Personal Computer population is compromised with potential back door Trojans, a figure that not only presents nuisance value but a potential weapon of mass destruction if turned against any target attached to our critical infrastructure.

Best not tell the Americans!

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Mainframe to Mobile

Not one of us has a clue what the world will look like in five years’ time, yet we are all preparing for that future – As  computing power has become embedded in everything from our cars and our telephones to our financial markets, technological complexity has eclipsed our ability to comprehend it’s bigger picture impact on the shape of tomorrow.

Our intuition has been formed by a set of experiences and ideas about how things worked during a time when changes were incremental and somewhat predictable. In March 1953. there were only 53 kilobytes of high-speed RAM on the entire planet.

Today, more than 80 per cent of the value of FTSE 500* firms is ‘now dark matter’: the intangible secret recipe of success; the physical stuff companies own and their wages bill accounts for less than 20 per cent: a reversal of the pattern that once prevailed in the 1970s. Very soon, Everything at scale in this world will be managed by algorithms and data and there’s a need for effective platforms for ma…

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 Big Steal

I’m not here to predict the future;” quipped the novelist, Ray Bradbury. “I’m here to prevent it.” And the future looks much like one where giant corporations who hold the most data, the fastest servers, and the greatest processing power will drive all economic growth into the second half of the century.

We live in an unprecedented time. This in the sense that nobody knows what the world will look like in twenty years; one where making confident forecasts in the face of new technologies becomes a real challenge. Before this decade is over, business leaders will face regular and complex decisions about protecting their critical information and systems as more of the existing solutions they have relied upon are exposed as inadequate.

The few real certainties we have available surround the uninterrupted march of Moore’s Law - the notion that the number of transistors in the top-of-the-line processors doubles approximately every two years - and the unpredictability of human nature. Exper…