Phishers cast ever widening net

A currently circulating spoof e-mail claiming to be from eBay is just one of many phishing attacks proliferating worldwide.

The spoof e-mail, sent on Monday, asked customers to click on a link to update their eBay accounts before December 31, or risk having their membership suspended.

Former Australian High Tech Crime Centre director Alastair MacGibbon, who now directs trust and security at eBay said his company was not alone and these sorts of attacks were now very common.

"This is nothing that I haven't seen in my time with the Federal Police," MacGibbon said.

"We have seen a steady emergence of phishing attacks over the last two years and it's a rare day when someone with an online account does not get spammed."

MacGibbon said eBay had 7000 employees worldwide and 1000 of these worked in trust and security.

eBay encourages customers to report any phishing incidents to where managers review them with a view to making the necessary steps to shutting down offending URLs.

As further protection, eBay customers can freely download Account Guard from the eBay toolbar. The feature detects suspicious behavior, such as Web URLs that disguise the true Internet address of the site the user is visiting.

Technical Services Manager for Trend Micro Mark Sinclair said that phishing attacks are currently more common in Australia than any other type of virus or bug.

"Phishing has been around for a number of years now. eBay and Pay Pal are regular targets, along with many other online retailers and financial institutions," he said.

"There is probably at least one new phishing attack written every couple of weeks."

Sinclair said that although the public was more educated these days it was important that people did not become complacent due to the sheer quantity of scams.

"Like spam, these scams still exist because people continue to be misled by them. Some of the phishing scams are so professional and elaborate that even the security experts need to look very carefully to spot the fraud," he said.

"Attackers are using graphics from the target's Web sites and it is becoming very difficult to differentiate between legitimate e-mails and phishing scams."

Trend Micro suggests that customers check to make sure a Web site is secure by looking for the gold padlock at the bottom of their browser, and also to check that the URL starts with "https://".

Managing Director for Sophos, Rob Forsythe, said he was concerned about scams that specifically targeted vulnerable people, pointing to the Credit Suisse scam last week which offered people employment if they filled in a form with their details.

"This is targeting unemployed people, who are more susceptible to the offer," said Forsythe, who warned that, as always, if it appeared too good to be true, it probably was.

Forsythe said these scams, which steal identities to help the phisher launder money from exploited bank accounts, were on the rise.

However, he believes that the public are generally more educated than when phishing scams started appearing two years ago, and offending sites are usually shut down a lot quicker.

"The response rate to reported scams is now a lot faster," he said. "There is a lot more cooperation between authorities and service providers internationally and offending URLs are generally shut down within days."

The URL linked to in Monday's eBay spoof had not been shut down at the time of writing.

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