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Gmail phishing attack hits on heels of outage

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Gmail users, still swooning from the extended outage on Tuesday, were hit with a widespread phishing attack hours after the blackout.

The malicious message spread via the Google Talk instant messaging chat system, urging users to a video by clicking on a link connected via the TinyURL service. The link points to a website called ViddyHo, which invited users to submit their Gmail usernames and passwords.

Once extracted from marks these login credentials could be used for a variety of malign purposes ranging from impersonation to identity theft, or simply for sending spam. The motive for the attack is unclear.

A San Francisco-based man who reportedly registered the ViddyHo domain, Cam-Hoan Ton-That, may be able to supply some answers, but is yet to be tracked down.

Victims were urged to change their passwords before hackers have a chance to abuse their webmail account.

TinyURL has blacklisted the site, rendering the attack inert, but that action is too late for those duped by the ruse, who now need to act quickly.

"If you think you might have been duped, make sure you change your Gmail password immediately otherwise your entire address book and all your correspondence, including information that you may have archived about other online accounts, will quickly become rich pickings for the hackers," warned Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos.

Cluley added that the attack was more plausible because malign messages came via the instant chat system built into Gmail rather than by email directly.

The incident illustrates the importance of using different passwords for multiple online accounts. Recent research by Sophos found that two in five (41 per cent) of surfers use the same password for every website they access, creating a much bigger problem in the event of any password compromise.

More details of the attack, including screenshots, can be found in a blog posting by Cluley here. ®

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