Feeds

Phishing email poses as IRS tax refund

Your check's in our account

Reducing security risks from open source software

Email fraudsters are taking advantage of lax government security around a US government website to run a scam designed to trick US taxpayers into handing over sensitive personal information.

A phishing email which pose as notification of a refund from the US's Internal Revenue Service (IRS) takes advantage of security configuration weaknesses on a secondary website run by the Department of Labor, according to security firm Sophos. It warns that these emails redirect surfers to a bogus website with users fooled into thinking they remain on a legitimate US government site.

In an attempt to look more legitimate, the bogus emails tell users to cut-and-paste the link into their web browser rather than click directly on it. This link features the genuine domain name of the real government website. But configuration errors bounce surfers to a bogus look-a-like site run by the cyber-criminals. The ruse makes the IRS-themed scam more sophisticated than typical phishing attacks.

"This phish tells the user that the IRS owes them several hundred dollars and offers a web link from which they can allegedly claim the tax refund," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. "But the link in the email simply bounces the user off a US Government website onto a site owned by the criminals, who are ready and waiting to steal their credit card details, Social Security Number and other personal information."

More information, including graphics of the email and bogus website, can be found here. The phishing website used in the attack has now been taken down but the security shortcomings of the US government site targeted in the attack remain, leaving the door open for similar attacks in future.

"The phishers didn't need to hack into or compromise the government website to do this, the website has simply had this vulnerability on it all along," Cluley added. "This is a warning to every business and agency that runs a website to be very careful that it cannot be abused to bounce web surfers elsewhere." ®

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Microsoft: You NEED bad passwords and should re-use them a lot
Dirty QWERTY a perfect P@ssword1 for garbage websites
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
NUDE SNAPS AGENCY: NSA bods love 'showing off your saucy selfies'
Swapping other people's sexts is a fringe benefit, says Snowden
L33t haxxors compete to p0wn popular home routers
EFF-endorsed SOHOpelessly Broken challenge will air routers' dirty zero day laundry
Own a Cisco modem or wireless gateway? It might be owned by someone else, too
Remote code exec in HTTP server hands kit to bad guys
British data cops: We need greater powers and more money
You want data butt kicking, we need bigger boots - ICO
Crooks fling banking Trojan at Japanese smut site fans
Wait - they're doing online banking with an unpatched Windows PC?
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Mobile application security vulnerability report
The alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, and the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.