Internet Services Go Phish Phighting

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2004-01-07 Print this article Print

The release of the newest MiMail variant is a reminder that we need to be vigilant against phishing and other fraud scemes on the Internet. But if you're the company being impersonated in the scam you've got to do whatever you can to stop it. Services are

If youre an Internet consumer, you need to be aware of and concerned about "phishing" and other attempts at fraud. Typically, such fraud impersonates an e-mail or Web page from a real, respectable company, in an attempt to get you to provide account information that they can use to steal money from you. If youre a large company, you really need to be concerned about such fraud too, since it could easily be an effort to use your good name to defraud users out there. Take the newest variant of the MiMail worm, the worm that cleverly incorporates a standard PayPal phishing scam. (Poor PayPal. Why do so many of these people pick on them?) Anti-spam software will probably catch some number of these messages, and MiMail in particular would be stopped by updated anti-virus software, since it involves an attachment.

Other fraudulent messages arent so easily identified, such as those selling pirated or otherwise unauthorized versions of programs like Norton Systemworks or Adobe Photoshop. According to Internet filtering company SurfControl, "by December [2003], the OEM software spam represented 5 percent of all spam, or 1 in every 20 spam e-mails."

But now services have arrived to protect the companies being impersonated. The first one I heard of was Brightmail Anti-Fraud, from one of the top enterprise anti-spam companies. Earlier this week, Netcraft announced a similar service. The two come at the problem in interesting ways, each leveraging a different respected service from a respected company, but to the same end.

Brightmail Anti-Fraud, of course, has the great advantage of the companys "probe network" of over 2 million honeypot accounts, decoys to draw in spam, and as well to reports from genuine accounts of their customers. In addition to looking for spam, if youre a customer they will look for spoofed attempts at using your brands and other frauds involving your name.

Because Brightmail is not just a monitoring service, but an active protection service for e-mail, once it identifies a message as fraudulent, it can add it to its list of messages to block and push that identification out to clients. That identification right there stops a significant number of the potential messages with the scam, and prevents Brightmail customers from spreading them further. Brightmail also virus-checks, which would likely stop a worm like MiMail quickly.

Next Page: Internet Services and Catching Phish

Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

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