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Monster.com torpedoes rogue server as malware scam rolls on

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Trying to contain damage amid reports that con artists are targeting online job sites, Monster Worldwide has shut down a rogue server that was siphoning personal information from the resumes of job seekers. The disclosure came amid new details of a Trojan that's amassed personal information on hundreds of thousands of people.

The company, which maintains the employment search site Monster.com, warned users on Wednesday that it continues to investigate and "take measures to address the impact" of Infostealer.Monstres. The malware was first uncovered last week by Symantec. The program managed to access sections of the site reserved for confirmed job recruiters so it could assemble personal information on "several hundred thousand" job seekers.

According to a more recent posting by Symantec researcher Vikram Thakur, criminals behind the Trojan may be using the information to send personalized emails that try to trick recipients into turning over online bank account credentials.

"The email looks very realistic and may convince many that it has been sent from Monster.com or Careerbuilder.com," Thakur warned.

The message, which contains the job seeker's full name, offers a position as a "transfer manager" at an investment firm. It offers a competitive salary, a $500 signing bonus and the ability to work from home.

However, there's a catch: The email also requires candidates to open a Bank of America account and transmit the account details, ostensibly so they can receive online payments. With that and additional information that's requested, it would then be possible for fraudsters to use Western Union to withdraw money against the account.

While there are tell-tale signs that the emails are fraudulent, the con artists have several things on their side. That would be 1.6m entries providing personal information on several hundred thousand people, all of whom are actively seeking new jobs.

"The sheer number of people who could receive such targeted spam is worrisome," Thakur wrote. "We urge readers to limit the information they post on Web sites."

According to Symantec, individual computers infected with Infostealer.Monstres were programmed to use pilfered recruiter credentials to pull a broad range of information relating to job candidates and feed them to a server in Eastern Europe. Because the queries were coming from many different internet protocol addresses, rather than a single machine, the fraudulent requests were probably more difficult for Monster to detect.

Last week's discovery by Symantec of the Trojan and the huge database it has assembled coincided with a separate significant finding relating to job site security by Atlanta-based SecureWorks. It uncovered a cache of personal data stolen by a separate Trojan that is being pushed by ads being hosted on job sites.

The PRG Trojan, as SecureWorks has dubbed the malware, has amassed usernames, passwords, social security numbers, bank account numbers and other details on 46,000 victims, SecureWorks said last week. It added that the collection of stolen data was continuing, with as many as 10,000 victims sending information at any one time. The malware works by installing a keylogger on the user's machine that sends sensitive information to a server located in the Asia Pacific.

SecureWorks couldn't be reached on Thursday, so it remains unclear which job sites were carrying the infected ads or whether those ads continued to be be hosted.

Today's press release from Monster provides few details on the rogue server the company managed to shut down except that information on it "was limited to names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses. That makes us believe the cache was the one uncovered by Symantec, rather than the one SecureWorks stumbled upon.

Monster said it was in the process of determining how many of job seekers were included in the database and would "be communicating with those affected as appropriate." Monster also unveiled a new security alert on its site. It can be found here. ®

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