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Hacking the Internet User
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of biases and are not definitive) If you believe that Microsoft alternatives such as Mozilla s Firefox (http://wwwmozillacom/en-US/firefox/) and Opera (wwwoperacom) have just as many security vulnerabilities, but that they simply haven t been exposed due to lack of focus on non-Microsoft products, then we think it makes sense to stick with Microsoft On the other hand, if you conversely believe that IE s track record is indicative of substantially poorer software design and implementation quality than rivals, then by all means, switch now Even if you stop using IE, it is difficult to strip its core functionality out of the operating system (as we all became painfully aware following Microsoft s antitrust settlement with the US government) As you saw earlier in this chapter with the Shell Explorer ActiveX control, such components will always be available to exploit within Windows, whether IE is used or not The tight integration of all Microsoft products compounds this issue (think Office, largely a collection of ActiveX controls in its own right) If you re going to drop IE, you will likely soon find yourself contemplating dropping Microsoft products altogether to achieve optimal security improvements Finally, regardless of whether you use IE or not, the important thing is to follow the advice we ve laid out in this chapter when navigating the potentially harsh waters of the Internet In our experience, the debate about dumping IE tends to devolve quickly into emotion and away from factuality and frankly, there are much more practical debates to be had about the state of Internet client security today
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SOCIO-TECHNICAL ATTACKS: PHISHING AND IDENTITY THEFT
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Although we think it s one of the more unfortunate terms in the hacker vernacular, social engineering has been used for years in security circles to describe the technique of using persuasion and/or deception to gain access to information systems Social engineering typically takes place via human conversation or other interaction The medium of choice is usually the telephone, but it can also be communicated via an e-mail message, a television commercial, or countless other media for provoking human reaction Social-engineering attacks have garnered an edgy technical thrust in recent years, and new terminology has sprung up to describe this fusion of basic human trickery and sophisticated technical sleight-of-hand The expression that s gained worldwide popularity is phishing, which is defined as follows by the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG, http://wwwantiphishingorg): Phishing attacks use spoofed e-mails and fraudulent websites designed to fool recipients into divulging personal nancial data such as credit card numbers, account usernames and passwords, social security numbers, etc Thus, phishing is essentially classic social engineering married to Internet technology This is not to minimize its impact, however, which by some estimates costs consumers over $1 billion annually, an amount that is growing steadily This section will examine
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Hacking Exposed 6: Network Security Secrets & Solutions
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some classic attacks and countermeasures to inform your own personal approach to avoiding such scams
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Phishing Techniques
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APWG is probably one of the best sites for cataloging recent widespread scams The common themes to such scams include: Targeting nancially consequential online users Invalid or laundered source addresses Spoof authenticity using familiar brand imagery Compelling action with urgency Let s examine each one of these in more detail Phishing scams are typically targeted at financially consequential online users, specifically those who perform numerous financial transactions or manage financial accounts online As the saying goes, Why do criminals rob banks Because that s where the money is Thus, the top most targeted victims include Citibank and Bank of America online banking customers, eBay and PayPal users, larger regional banks with online presences, and Internet service providers whose customers pay by credit card, such as AOL and Earthlink All these organizations support millions of customers through online financial management/transaction services Are you a customer of one of these institutions Then you likely have already or will soon receive a phishing e-mail As one might imagine, phishing scam artists have very little desire to get caught, and thus most phishing scams are predicated on invalid or laundered source addresses Phishing e-mails typically bear forged From addresses resolving to nonexistent or invalid e-mail accounts, or are typically sent via laundered e-mail engines on compromised computers and are thus irrelevant to trace via standard mail header examination techniques Similarly, the websites to which victims get directed to enter sensitive information are temporary bases of operation on hacked systems out on the Internet If you think phishing is easy to stomp out simply by tracking the offenders down, think again The success of most phishing attacks is also based on spoofing authenticity using familiar brand imagery Again, although it may appear to be technology driven, the root cause here is pure human trickery Take a look at the fraudulent phishing e-mail in Figure 12-6 The images in the upper-left corner of the e-mail are taken directly from the http:// wellsfargocom home page, and they lend an air of authenticity to the message (which is itself only a few lines of text that would probably be rejected out-of-hand without the accompanying imagery) The copyright symbol in the footer also plays on this theme Surely this must be a legitimate message because it bears the imprimatur of the Wells Fargo brand! Savvy companies can learn whether their customers are being phished by examining their web server logs periodically for HTTP Referrer entries that indicate a fraudulent site may be pointing back to graphic images hosted on the authentic website Although it s trivial to copy the images, many phishing sites don t bother and thus beacon their whereabouts to the very companies they are impersonating
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