eBay: Phishers getting better organized, using Linux

eBay's CISO says phishers are using Linux to conduct their online attacks.

When it comes to launching online attacks, criminals are getting more organized and branching out from the Windows operating system, eBay's security chief said this week.

eBay recently did an in-depth analysis of its threat situation, and while the company is not releasing the results of this analysis, it did uncover a huge number of hacked, botnet computers, said Dave Cullinane, eBay's chief information and security officer, speaking at a Microsoft-sponsored security symposium at Santa Clara University.

Cullinane, who one year ago downplayed the role of organized crime in phishing ("It's not the Sopranos," he said), believes that online attackers are indeed becoming more sophisticated, with malware developers now being funded to develop new and improved attacks.

In the past year, Cullinane has seen better organization by eBay fraudsters. Criminals are being paid to develop better types of attacks, and the attacks are getting harder to detect, he added. "The phishing e-mails I see are extremely sophisticated," he said.

Apparently, this growing professionalisation has even cut down on mangled grammar. "The language they're using is very good." Cullinane said.

Last week eBay said data on 1,200 eBay members had probably been stolen via an phishing scam. The members' data was posted to the company's Trust & Safety discussion forum.

Cullinane's experience with phishing goes back to his previous employer, Washington Mutual, which has been one of the top phishing targets in the U.S.

While there, he noticed an unusual trend when taking down phishing sites.

"The vast majority of the threats we saw were rootkitted Linux boxes, which was rather startling. We expected Microsoft boxes," he said.

Rootkit software covers the tracks of the attackers and can be extremely difficult to detect. According to Cullinane, none of the Linux operators whose machines had been compromised were even aware they'd been infected.

Although Linux has long been considered more secure than Windows, many of the programs that run on top of Linux have known security vulnerabilities, and if an attacker were to exploit an unpatched bug on a misconfigured system, he could seize control of the machine.

Because Linux is highly reliable and a great platform for running server software, Linux machines are desired by phishers, who set up fake Web sites, hoping to lure victims into disclosing their passwords.

"We see a lot of Linux machines used in phishing," said Alfred Huger, vice president for Symantec Security Response. "We see them as part of the command and control networks for botnets, but we rarely see them be the actual bots. Botnets are almost uniformly Windows-based."

Since Linux machines can be used to more easily create specially crafted networking packets, they can be used in highly sophisticated online attacks, said Iftach Amit, director of security research with Finjan Inc.'s malicious code research center.

Capabilities like this make Linux machines highly coveted by online attackers, and they fetch a premium in the underground marketplace for compromised machines, Amit said.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?