Feeds

Spammers crack Gmail Captcha

Fresh fruit for rotting vegetables

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

Spammers, fresh from the success of cracking the Windows Live captcha used by Hotmail, have broken the equivalent system at Gmail.

Internet security firm Websense reports that miscreants have created bots which are capable of signing up and creating random Gmail accounts for spamming purposes, defeating Captcha-based defences in the process. It reckons the same group of spammers are behind both attacks.

Captcha (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) challenge-response systems, which are used to prevent accounts being created until a user correctly identifies letters in an image, are designed to ensure requests are made by a human rather than an automated program. The technique has been used to defeat automatic sign-ups to email accounts by services including Yahoo! Mail and Gmail for years, and hackers are increasingly successful in defeating the approach. For example, the HotLan Trojan has created more than 500,000 spam email accounts with Hotmail, Yahoo! and Gmail since its arrival back in July 2007.

Websense reckons the latest Gmail Captcha hack is the most sophisticated it has seen to date. Unlike Live Mail Captcha breaking, which involved just one zombie host doing the entire job, the Gmail breaking process involves two compromised hosts. Each of the two compromised hosts applies a slightly different technique to analysing Captcha, as explained in a posting by Websense.

Even using the two techniques, only one in every five Captcha-breaking requests are successful. It's a fairly low percentage, but one that's still more than workable in the case of automated attacks.

It sounds like a lot of effort, but gaining a working Gmail account has a number of advantages for spammers. As well as gaining access to Google's services in general, spammers gain a address whose domain is highly unlikely to be blacklisted, helping them defeat one aspect of anti-spam defences. Gmail also has the benefit of being free to use.

A wide range of Captcha-breaking services are hosted on a domain located in the US, Websense reports. The page includes a support page and payment advice along with an internal test page. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
14 antivirus apps found to have security problems
Vendors just don't care, says researcher, after finding basic boo-boos in security software
'Things' on the Internet-of-things have 25 vulnerabilities apiece
Leaking sprinklers, overheated thermostats and picked locks all online
iWallet: No BONKING PLEASE, we're Apple
BLE-ding iPhones, not NFC bonkers, will drive trend - marketeers
Multipath TCP speeds up the internet so much that security breaks
Black Hat research says proposed protocol will bork network probes, flummox firewalls
Only '3% of web servers in top corps' fully fixed after Heartbleed snafu
Just slapping a patched OpenSSL on a machine ain't going to cut it, we're told
Microsoft's Euro cloud darkens: US FEDS can dig into foreign servers
They're not emails, they're business records, says court
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Israel's Iron Dome missile tech stolen by Chinese hackers
Corporate raiders Comment Crew fingered for attacks
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
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.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.