Feeds

Twitter adds email security to help block phishing attempts

Too late for Burger King, but maybe not for you

High performance access to file storage

Following a recent spate of incidents in which high-profile accounts have been compromised by hackers, Twitter has implemented a security protocol designed to make it harder for fraudsters to send out emails that appear to come from Twitter.com addresses.

"We send out lots of emails every day to our users letting them know what's happening on Twitter," the company's postmaster, Josh Aberant, wrote in a blog post on Thursday. "But there's no shortage of bad actors sending emails that appear to come from a Twitter.com address in order to trick you into giving away key details about your Twitter account, or other personal information, commonly called 'phishing'."

To help curb such attempts, Aberant says Twitter has begun using Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC), an email-authentication technology developed by a number of prominent online companies, including AOL, Comcast, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, PayPal, and Yahoo!, among others.

At the heart of DMARC are the decade-old DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIF) and Sender Policy Framework (SPF) mechanisms, which can be used to attach digital signatures to emails and validate their authenticity.

Because DKIF and SPF are difficult for organizations to implement effectively on their own, however, DMARC establishes a way for companies to collaborate and establish shared policies so that spoofed messages are recognized and handled appropriately.

"While this protocol is young, it has already gained significant traction in the email community with all four major email providers – AOL, Gmail, Hotmail/Outlook, and Yahoo! Mail – already on board, rejecting forged emails," Twitter's Aberant said.

  Diagram showing DMARC email authentication policy flow  

DMARC lets mail senders and recipients share policies explaining how to spot forged mail and what to do about it

Getting duped into giving away a Twitter account password would leave any average user red-faced. But it can be particularly bad news for celebrities and companies that use the site as part of their online marketing strategies, as several have already learned.

Just this week, an unknown prankster gained control of the Twitter feed for fast-food chain Burger King and let loose a series of bizarre posts promoting its rival, McDonald's. Twitter quickly shut down that account, but Jeep fell victim to a similar attack the next day – and these were hardly the first such incidents.

It's not known just how hackers gained control of each of these accounts, but phishing for the passwords could certainly have been one way. Now that Twitter has implemented DMARC, however, such methods are far less likely to be successful – provided, of course, that the targeted Twitter account holders' email systems also support it.

There's a good chance that they will. According to DMARC.org, which manages the DMARC specification, 80 per cent of email boxes of typical US customers are now protected using the technology, as are 60 per cent of email boxes worldwide.

If you're unlucky enough to be among that group, however, you'll have to deal with the phishing problem another way – and there's always Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson's method. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Parent gabfest Mumsnet hit by SSL bug: My heart bleeds, grins hacker
Natter-board tells middle-class Britain to purée its passwords
Web data BLEEDOUT: Users to feel the pain as Heartbleed bug revealed
Vendors and ISPs have work to do updating firmware - if it's possible to fix this
OpenSSL Heartbleed: Bloody nose for open-source bleeding hearts
Bloke behind the cockup says not enough people are helping crucial crypto project
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Call of Duty 'fragged using OpenSSL's Heartbleed exploit'
So it begins ... or maybe not, says one analyst
German space centre endures cyber attack
Chinese code retrieved but NSA hack not ruled out
Experian subsidiary faces MEGA-PROBE for 'selling consumer data to fraudster'
US attorneys general roll up sleeves, snap on gloves
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.