26 Aug There’s fishing, and there’s phishing
Phishing, as it’s known, is quite like fishing, in that an innocent bystander (byswimmer?) is lured into believing one thing but getting ‘caught’ in another, thereby become an unwitting victim.
The term has been around since the very early days of the Internet, in fact ever since unscrupulous types realised there was a new way to steal valuable information, but it was really only in the early-mid-2000s when banks were the prime target, that the phrase ‘phishing’ became more widely used.
Fundamentally it’s a document, usually an email, or a pop-up window (although these were largely thwarted with the advent of pop-up blockers, now commonplace in internet browsers) purporting to be one thing when it’s actually something else entirely. It wants to trick you into providing information that you belive is going to the ‘right’ people or company when it’s really going somewhere completely different, somewhere that will steal this information and use it against you.
The example shown here was an email received at Paramount’s offices and appears to be from Paypal. It looks genuine enough; it contains their logo and the correct physical address; it also has a link back to PayPal (by clicking the logo).
However, whilst the wording is pretty lame, many people won’t notice that, they’ll just see what they think is a genuine request and follow the inviting ‘Login Please’ button. No, wait! What does that button actually say…? It says ‘Login In Please’ – but it took a while for you to realise that, didn’t it?
This is quite an unsophisticated attempt at phishing, precisely because of the schoolboy mistakes mentioned, but it will still fool some people and they will continue as instructed, at their peril.
Fake or genuine?
So, how do you know and email like this is really fake when it, potentially, looks so genuine?
The most obvious clue is where the login button is sending you. It’s fair to say the login button should be going to the PayPal website in this case, wouldn’t you agree?
In the original email if you hovered your cursor over the ‘login’ button you’d see the web-address it’s linked to either at teh edge of your email program screen of as text that drops down by your cursor.
In this example the button will take you to https://coot.arvixe.com/~naid/account/webscr
This doesn’t look very PayPal-like, now does it?
If you had received this email and were brave enough to click the button you’d have been taken to a website with another page that also looks like it probably belongs to PayPal.
The text says it’s a secure page and, incredibly, it really is. You can see this from the ‘https’ in the address bar and the padlock beside the address (it’s nigh-on impossible to fake this so it really is a secure page – it just has nothing whatsoever to do with PayPal).
This form asks you to login to your PayPal account with your email address and password.
If you do this you may as well have shouted it from the tallest building as it very definitely won’t be going to PayPal – your email address and password will have been collected by the crooks who set-up the page.
Your details have been phished and you’ve been caught hook, line and sinker.
So, clues to look out for:
Would you really expect this organisation (whomever they may be) to email you asking you to login, when they don’t even know your name? i.e. ‘Dear Account Holder’
Does the language or style of writing used in the email sit right with you? ‘Hello Dear Account Holder’ (that’s probably ok if it’s your grandma emailing you).
Are you sure the website link in the email is really that of the company the email is apparently from?
If you have clicked a link and you’re on a web-page now, does the website address look right to you? If you’ve been lured to a NatWest bank web-page the website address would start natwest.com. Use your common sense.
If you want to know more about phishing then visit www.phishing.org