Feeds

If you see 'URGENT tax rebate download' in an inbox, kill it with fire

Top spear-phishing email phrases revealed

Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL

FireEye has put together a list of the most common words and phrases that appear in fake emails designed to infect corporate networks and steal data.

The security firm said that the list spotlights the social engineering techniques that feature as a key component of so-called spear phishing attacks. Hackers tend to use words that create a sense of urgency in a bid to trick unsuspecting recipients into downloading malicious files.

The top word category in email-based attacks relates to express shipping. Words such as "DHL", "UPS", and "delivery" featuring in a quarter of overall attacks. Urgent terms such as “notification” and “alert” are included in about 10 per cent of attacks. Some attacks mix and match terms from these two popular categories such as "UPS-Delivery-Confirmation-Alert_April-2012.zip", one example cited by FireEye.

Email-based attacks increased 56 per cent between Q1 2012 and Q2 2012, according to FireEye. The security firm claims these attacks often get through multiple layers of defence – including anti-virus, firewalls and intrusion prevention systems – to reach corporate desktops.

Cybercrooks and spies are also fond of finance-related words, such as the names of financial institutions and an associated transaction such as "Lloyds TSB - Login Form.html", and tax-related words, such as "Tax_Refund.zip". Travel and billing words including "American Airlines Ticket" and "invoice" are also popular spear phishing email attachment keywords.

FireEye warns that crooks often use phrases from social engineering sites to "personalise" booby-trapped emails and make them look more authentic.

Attackers primarily use zip files in order to hide malicious code, but other file types, including PDFs and executable files, also feature in attacks ultimately aimed at gaining access to corporate networks before stealing intellectual property, customer information, and other valuable data. It's hard to believe that executables, in particular, aren't routinely blocked at corporate email gateways, but FireEye's research suggests otherwise.

The study, Top Words Used in Spear Phishing Attacks to Successfully Compromise Enterprise Networks and Steal Data (PDF), is based on data from the FireEye Malware Protection Cloud, a service shared by thousands of FireEye appliances, as well as input from FireEye's research team. ®

The next step in data security

More from The Register

next story
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
Infosec geniuses hack a Canon PRINTER and install DOOM
Internet of Stuff securo-cockups strike yet again
'Speargun' program is fantasy, says cable operator
We just might notice if you cut our cables
Apple Pay is a tidy payday for Apple with 0.15% cut, sources say
Cupertino slurps 15 cents from every $100 purchase
YouTube, Amazon and Yahoo! caught in malvertising mess
Cisco says 'Kyle and Stan' attack is spreading through compromised ad networks
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
Greater dev access to iOS 8 will put us AT RISK from HACKERS
Knocking holes in Apple's walled garden could backfire, says securo-chap
Microsoft to patch ASP.NET mess even if you don't
We know what's good for you, because we made the mess says Redmond
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.