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IE phishing scam exploit unearthed

Master of disguise

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Security researchers have discovered a way for scam artists to disguise more effectively the location of bogus Web sites.

A flaw in IE displays URLs in the address bar takes the old trick of fooling users into visiting dodgy sites to the next level.

The true destination of scam email is commonly disguised by fraudsters using misleading URLs of the form www.highstbank.co.uk@fraudsterscrooks.ru.

As explained here, the weird looking address takes advantage of the fact that anything between "http://" and "@" will be ignored in directing potential victims to scam sites.

That still leaves the weird looking URL - but this can be disguised by hiding a "0x01" character after the "@" character.

Internet Explorer doesn't display the rest of the URL, making the page appear to be at a different domain, for example Microsoft.com - as an test exploit demonstrates.

The problem affects IE 6.0, according to preliminary tests. Other versions of IE could also be affected.

Information on the vulnerability was posted on BugTraq yesterday, at the same time as Microsoft was notified.

So obviously there's no fix from Microsoft as yet.

The first defence against phishing scams is to never hand over confidential financial info in response to email requests. Well it's either that or switch to a different browser, at least until Microsoft issues a fix.

Since adopting a monthly patching regime, Microsoft has issued its patches on the second Tuesday of the month, something that didn't happen yesterday.

So it looks like we'll have to wait for patches for the latest problem, and a series of unrelated security vulnerabilities with IE discovered by a Chinese security researcher last month, for another month at best. ®

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