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Google blacklist sheds light on phishing tactics

Social engineering still the mainstay of scams

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An analysis of Google's blacklist of suspected phishing sites found that eBay, PayPal and Bank of America together account for almost two in three (63 per cent) of suspected scam sites.

Security researcher Michael Sutton also discovered that Yahoo! hosts a significant number of bogus websites - as identified by Google's blacklist) - that try to trick surfers into handing over Yahoo! login credentials. Information from the list is used by anti-phishing technology within the Firefox 2 browser and by the Google Toolbar for Firefox.

Sutton found that 83 per cent of sites detailed on the list are no longer available. By their nature, phishing websites have a rapid turnover but Google's blacklist, and other such initiatives, undoubtedly helpCERTs and other net defenders to identify and remove bogus websites more quickly.

Most of the websites contained in the list use social engineering techniques. Spam emails promoting these sites, often posing as security checks from recognised online firms, attempt to trick users into handing over login credentials. Sutton found little evidence of sites that attempt to use software vulnerabilities to swipe passwords from surfers.

This week we received notice via a full disclosure mailing list that Google's blacklists unwittingly contain peoples' user names and passwords. The problem has since been corrected. Google has not responding to our questions about this snafu. So our best guess is that this data was pulled off users' machines by key-logging Trojans, which are known to post their results online so that they might subsequently be harvested by hackers. ®

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