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    • Abstract: W H I T E PA P E RFraud Alert: Phishing —The Latest Tactics and PotentialBusiness Impact W H I T E PA P E RCONTENTS + Introduction 3+ Phishing Knows No Limits 3

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Fraud Alert: Phishing —
The Latest Tactics and Potential
Business Impact
CONTENTS + Introduction 3
+ Phishing Knows No Limits 3
+ Be Aware of the Latest
Phishing Schemes 4
Spear Phishing 4
Business Services Phishing 4
Phishing that Plays on Economic Fears 4
Blended Phishing/Malware Threats 4
Man-in-the-Middle SSL Stripping 5
Texting and Mobile Phone Phishing Scams 5
+ How Phishing Could Impact
Your Business 5
+ Protecting Your Business 5
Consumer and Employee Education 7
+ Conclusion 7
+ Glossary 7
+ Learn More 7
+ About VeriSign 7
Fraud Alert: Phishing —
The Latest Tactics and Potential
Business Impact
+ Introduction
As one of the top cyber crime ploys impacting both consumers and businesses, phishing has
grown in volume and sophistication over the past several years. The down economy is
providing a breeding ground for new, socially-engineered attempts to defraud unsuspecting
business people and consumers. With honest money-earning avenues less available, the
cyber crime ecosystem is ready with off-the-shelf phishing kits. It no longer takes a hacker
to enable and commit fraud on the Internet — anyone with a motive can join in.
The potential impact on a business can be great — whether an employee or its customers
have been phished, or the company Web site has been compromised. Organizations need
to stay current on the latest methods employed by cyber criminals and proactively take
steps to prevent this type of fraud.
This fraud alert highlights the current growth and trends in today’s phishing schemes,
the potential impact on companies, and insight into how businesses can apply
technology to protect themselves and their customers.
+ Phishing Knows No Limits
Phishing — luring unsuspecting users to provide sensitive information for identity or
business theft — is a serious threat for both consumers and businesses. In the last decade
since phishing arrived on the scene, this fraud method has been growing rapidly, with
one estimate citing approximately 8 million daily phishing attempts worldwide.1
Figure 1. Spear-Phishing Attacks on the Increase
1. “Counterfeiting & Spear Phishing — Growth Scams of 2009,” Trade Me, Infonews.co.nz, March 2, 2009
The Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) reported that unique phishing attacks
submitted to APWG rose 13 percent during the second quarter of 2008 to more than
28,000.2 It also reported that, during the same period, the number of malware-spreading
VeriSign® iDefense® — security URLs infecting PCs with password-stealing code rose to a new record of more than 9,500
intelligence teams which identify, sites — a 258% increase compared with the same quarter in 2007. Figure 1 shows one
verify, and track global threats
area of phishing — spear phishing — and its growth over a 16-month period.
and vulnerabilities — reported
that in May 2008 more than
2,000 victims were compromised
with spear phishing e-mails + Be Aware of the Latest Phishing Schemes
claiming to come from the U.S. Spear Phishing
Internal Revenue Service, the Targeted versions of phishing, called spear phishing, have emerged over the past several
United States Tax Court, and the years. While common phishing is indiscriminate in its targets, spear phishing targets are
Better Business Bureau. known customers of a specific bank, mortgage provider, or other type of organization.
Consumers aren’t the only targets of spear phishing. Increasingly, corporate employees are
being targeted by savvy criminals. In these attacks, the goal is to gain access to corporate
banking information, customer databases, and other information to facilitate cyber crime.
According to VeriSign iDefense, spear phishing against corporations reached new heights
during April and May 2008. Many of these attacks target senior executives and other
high-profile individuals. The victim counts from these attacks is staggering — over
15,000 corporate users in 15 months. Victims include Fortune 500 companies,
government agencies, financial institutions and legal firms.
Business Services Phishing
In addition to spear phishing targeted at employees, there have been recent schemes
targeting businesses using services such as Yahoo! or Google AdWords. PhishTank
reported that AdWords customers were sent e-mails alerting them that their accounts
required updating. The account holder was encouraged to log into the spoofed AdWords
interface and then provide credit card information.4 With many small and mid-size
companies relying on online advertising to drive traffic to their sites, their marketing
managers could be easy prey for this type of phishing scam.
Phishing that Plays on Economic Fears
Today’s economic turmoil delivers unprecedented opportunities for criminals to exploit
victims. For instance, popular scams include phishing e-mails that look like they are
coming from a financial institution that recently acquired the target victim’s bank, savings
& loan, or mortgage holder.5 The large amount of merger and acquisition activity taking
place creates an atmosphere of confusion for consumers, exacerbated by the dearth of
consistent communications with customers. Phishers thrive in this type of situation.
Blended Phishing/Malware Threats
To increase success rates, some attacks combine phishing with malware for a blended
attack model. For instance, a potential victim receives a phishing e-card via e-mail that
appears to be legitimate. By clicking on the link inside the e-mail to receive the card, the
person is taken to a spoofed Web site which downloads a Trojan to the victim’s computer.
Alternatively, the victim may see a message that indicates a download of updated software
is needed before the victim can view the card. When the victim downloads the software,
it’s actually a keylogger.
2. “Phishing Activity Trends Report, Q2 2008,” Anti-Phishing Working Group, November 2008
3. www.antiphishing.org
4. “PhishTank April ’08 Stats. Learn to protect yourself, your company,” PhishTank, May 5, 2008
5. “FTC Consumer Alert: Bank Failures, Mergers and Takeovers: A Phish-erman’s Special,” www.ftc.gov
Phishing-based keyloggers have tracking components which attempt to monitor specific
actions (and specific organizations such as financial institutions, online retailers, and e-
commerce merchants) in order to obtain sensitive information such as account numbers,
“…End users are still falling for userids, and passwords.
phishing attacks that are often
combined with malware-based Another type of Trojan that enables phishers to capture sensitive information is a
attacks. We also know that fraud redirector. Redirectors route end users’ network traffic to a location where it was not
losses are increasing, which is intended to go. The APWG is seeing significant increases in both phishing-based
why there is so much demand
keyloggers and redirectors.6
for security and fraud detection
Man-in-the-Middle SSL Stripping
During 2008, a new type of malware was introduced that allows cyber criminals to spoof
— Avivah Litan, Vice President
and Information Security an encrypted session. This is a variance on the standard man-in-the-middle (MITM)
Analyst, Gartner7 attack that criminals use to access passwords or sensitive information passing unprotected
over the network.
Texting and Mobile Phone Phishing Scams
Posing as a real financial institution, phishers are using SMS as an alternative to e-mail
to attempt to gain access to confidential account information. Known as “smishing”, the
typical scam informs the mobile phone user that the person’s bank account has been
compromised or credit card/ATM card has been deactivated. The potential victim is
directed to call a number or go to a spoofed Web site to reactivate the card. Once on the
site, or through an automated phone system, the potential victim is asked for card and
account numbers and PIN numbers.
+ How Phishing Could Impact Your Business
While the financial industry continues to be a primary target for phishers, it’s certainly
not the only sector vulnerable to attack. Auction sites, payment services, retail, and social
networking sites are also frequent targets. The APWG also reports a massive increase in
attacks aimed at cell phone providers and manufacturers. In short, no business or brand
is inherently safe.
Phishing attacks that pose as a company’s official Web site diminish the company’s
online brand and deter customers from using the actual Web site out of fear of
becoming a fraud victim. In addition to the direct costs of fraud losses, businesses whose
customers fall victim to a phishing scam also risk:
Damage caused by cyber crime
is estimated at $100 billion • A drop in online revenues and/or usage due to decreased customer trust
annually according to the
• Potential non-compliance fines if customer data is compromised
Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe.8 Even phishing scams aimed at other brands can impact a business. The resulting fear
caused by phishing can cause consumers to stop transacting with anyone they can’t trust.
+ Protecting Your Business
While there is no silver bullet, there are technologies that can help protect you and your
customers. Many of the current phishing techniques rely on driving customers to
spoofed Web sites to capture personal information. Technology such as Secure Sockets
6. “Phishing Activity Trends Report Q2 2008,” Anti-Phishing Working Group, www.antiphishing.org
7. “Report: Phishing a Low-Paying, Low-Skills Job,” Kelly Jackson Higgins, DarkReading, January 7, 2009
8. “Experts: Cyber-crime as Destructive as Credit Crisis,” Reuters, , eWeek.com, November 19, 2008
Layer (SSL) and Extended Validation (EV) SSL are critical in fighting phishing and other
forms of cyber crime by encrypting sensitive information and helping customers
authenticate your site.
Security best practices call for implementing the highest levels of encryption and
authentication possible to protect against cyber fraud and build customer trust in the
brand. SSL, the world standard for Web security, is the technology used to encrypt and
protect information transmitted over the Web with the ubiquitous HTTPS protocol. SSL
protects data in motion which can be intercepted and tampered with if sent
unencrypted. Support for SSL is built into all major operating systems, Web browsers,
Internet applications, and server hardware.
To help prevent phishing attacks from being successful and to build customer trust,
companies also need a way to show customers that they are a legitimate business.
Extended Validation (EV) SSL Certificates are the answer, offering the highest level of
authentication available with an SSL Certificate and providing tangible proof to online
users that the site is indeed a legitimate business.
EV SSL gives Web site visitors an easy and reliable way to establish trust online by
triggering high security Web browsers to display a green address bar with the name of the
organization that owns the SSL Certificate and the name of the Certificate Authority
that issued it. Figure 2 shows the green address bar in Internet Explorer.
The green bar shows site visitors that the transaction is encrypted and the organization
has been authenticated according to the most rigorous industry standard. Phishers can
then no longer capitalize on visitors not noticing they are not on a true SSL session.
Figure 2. The Green Address Bar Triggered by an
EV SSL Certificate
While cyber criminals are becoming adept at mimicking legitimate Web sites, without
the company’s EV SSL Certificate there is no way they can display its name on the
address bar because the information shown there is outside of their control. And they
cannot obtain the legitimate company’s EV SSL Certificates because of the stringent
authentication process.
Consumer and Employee Education
In addition to implementing EV SSL technology, businesses should continue to educate
their customers and employees on safe Internet practices and how to avoid cyber fraud.
Teach them how to recognize the signs of a phishing attempt such as: misspellings (less
common as phishers become more sophisticated), generic greetings instead of being
personalized, urgent calls-to-action, account status threats, requests for personal
information, and fake domain names/links.
Also educate your customers and employees on how to recognize a valid, secure Web site
before they provide any personal or sensitive information by:
• Looking for the green bar
• Making sure the URL is HTTPS
• Clicking on the padlock to match the certificate information with the Web site they
intended to go to
Education is a key component of building the trust necessary to overcome phishing fears.
By helping your customers understand how to confirm they are safe on your Web site,
you can grow revenues, differentiate your offering, and/or benefit from operational
savings by moving more transactions online.
+ Conclusion
Phishing will continue to evolve into new forms, while attempting to take advantage of
human behaviors such as compassion, trust, or curiosity. Protecting your brand and your
business from phishing requires constant diligence, but pays rewards beyond reduced
fraud losses.
By educating and protecting your customers with the highest levels of protection
provided by EV SSL Certificates, your business can ensure customers have greater
confidence in your online services. By demonstrating leadership in online security, you
can broaden your market appeal and in doing so, generate new revenue streams.
+ Glossary
Certificate Authority (CA) — A Certificate Authority is a trusted third-party
organization that issues digital certificates such as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Certificates
after verifying the information included in the Certificates.
Encryption — Encryption is the process of scrambling a message so that only the
intended audience has access to the information. Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) technology
establishes a private communication channel where data can be encrypted during online
transmission, protecting sensitive information from electronic eavesdropping.
Extended Validation (EV) SSL Certificate — Requires a high standard for verification of
Secure Sockets (SSL) Certificates dictated by a third party, the CA/Browser Forum. In
Microsoft® Internet Explorer 7 and other popular high security browsers, Web sites secured
with Extended Validation SSL Certificates cause the URL address bar to turn green.
HTTPS — Web pages beginning with "https" instead of "http" enable secure
information transmission via the protocol for secure http. “Https” is one measure of
security to look for when sending or sharing confidential information such as credit card
numbers, private data records, or business partner data.
Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Technology — SSL and its successor, transport layer security
(TLS), use cryptography to provide security for online transactions. SSL uses two keys to
encrypt and decrypt data − a public key known to everyone and a private or secret key
known only to the recipient of the message.
SSL Certificate — A Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Certificate incorporates a digital
signature to bind together a public key with an identity. SSL Certificates enable
encryption of sensitive information during online transactions, and in the case of
organizationally validated Certificates, also serve as an attestation of the Certificate
owner’s identity.
+ Learn More
For more information about VeriSign® EV SSL solutions to protect against online fraud
threats, please call 866-893-6565 or 650-426-5112 option 3 or email: [email protected]
+ About VeriSign
VeriSign, Inc. (NASDAQ: VRSN) is the trusted provider of Internet infrastructure
services for the networked world. Billions of times each day, VeriSign helps companies
and consumers all over the world engage in communications and commerce with
confidence. Additional news and information about the company is available at
Visit us at www.VeriSign.com for more information.
©2009 VeriSign, Inc. All rights reserved. VeriSign, the VeriSign logo, the Checkmark Circle logo, and other trademarks, service marks, and designs are
registered or unregistered trademarks of VeriSign, Inc. and its subsidiaries in the United States and in foreign countries. All other trademarks are property of
their respective owners.
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