Bank "phishers" hook up from Russia

After several months of leisurely hijacking servers at a Floridian ISP to launch attacks on unwitting Australian bank customers, crooks engaged in so-called 'phishing' expeditions have shifted the launch pad of their spam attacks from the US back to Russia.

The spam attacks, which ubiquitously solicit recipients to go to a spoofed bank Web site with a tweaked log-in panel, are now believed to be the work of a single and highly organised Russian Internet crime gang, manager of investigations for Australian High Tech Crime Centre's, federal agent Nigel Phair confirmed to Computerworld.

While circumspect about what stage AHTCC investigations are at, Phair said that the Australian Federal Police's overseas liaison network will be used when and where it is necessary and described the assistance rendered so far as "absolutely sterling".

"[The spam attacks] just crop up. We're gathering intelligence and deploying resources as we see fit. I can't comment much further because it's an ongoing [operation]. It's true that we need to continue to educate the public, but we also need people to pursue investigations [with the view] to prosecuting those responsible. We have to work within the boundaries of international law," Phair said.

Given such boundaries and the logistical challenges they create, Phair said educating the public not to fall for such scams will continue in earnest, noting that "there's no problem with the [Internet banking] infrastructure, there are just people out there trying to defraud people of money."

Director of IT security and interception technology vendor Universal Defence, Umar Goldeli feels said that while phishing scams had now become common, they far from technical feats.

"These attacks are classic examples of social engineering. They are not brain surgery. These sort of investigations are very time critical, so getting results largely depends on the cooperation and assistance of other jurisdictions," Goldeli said.

Asked if the banking community in Australia had overcome its well-known reticence to seeking the assistance of law enforcement, Phair said that banks to date had been "extremely cooperative".

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