TippingPoint Casts Out Open-Source Phishing Tool

The network intrusion division of 3Com is sharing a research tool dubbed Monkeyspaw with the security industry in an effort to expand on its own research projects.

3Coms TippingPoint security division released an open-source anti-phishing technology to other security software developers on Oct. 9, citing industry collaboration as a key to reducing the continued threat of fraudulent Web sites.

Known as Monkeyspaw, the software code is used specifically to validate the legitimacy of individual sites and to report potentially fraudulent sites back to researchers for further investigation. Austin, Texas-based TippingPoint said the technology was primarily designed to work in combination with anti-phishing systems built into other open-source tools, such as the Mozilla Firefox browser.

On a basic level, Monkeyspaw is used to help determine the ownership of a Web server, as well as collect a servers configuration information and the location of the sites it supports. When the program detects a fraudulent site, the Web server and its URLs are reported via the CastleCops online crime organization to roughly 50 different international groups, including the Federal Bureau of Investigations, who maintain black lists of suspicious sites.

"Security people dont tend to use Web developer tools, but were looking for ways to help people cross-pollinate their work and bring some of the anti-phishing technologies theyve built together, as phishing is an area that can truly benefit from that sort of cooperation," said Tod Beardsley, lead counter-fraud engineer at TippingPoint and creator of Monkeyspaw. "The tools purpose is to ease the job of Web forensics investigators, and it pulls together AJAX-style technologies to help make that sort of research faster and more reliable."

/zimages/6/28571.gifPhishing attacks have continued to grow in volume as well as complexity, according to Symantecs latest Internet Security Threat Report. Click here to read more.

One of the recent trends observed by Beardsleys team has been a growth in efforts by phishers to leverage vulnerabilities in Web browsing software to deliver cross-site scripting attacks and other more sophisticated threats, while the majority of phishing attacks remain fairly simplistic, he said. In fact, TippingPoint has noticed a decrease in the overall technical sophistication of phishing Web sites, with fewer of the sites featuring JavaScript or Flash applications to help dupe users.

Based on what TippingPoint believes is a lack of technical expertise among phishing organizations, those groups are ramping up their efforts around development of more simplistic keystroke loggers, anti-spam evasion techniques and Web server compromises, Beardsley said. However, while the bulk of phishing attacks are crude, a small percentage of those creating the sites are building increasingly complex manners for loading code onto users desktops and stealing their personal data.

While a large volume of phishing sites will continue to try to fool unsuspecting users into handing over their information using more traditional methods, some phishers are adopting malware-writing techniques more typical to other forms of attack, according to TippingPoint.

"In general, weve seen that the sites are simpler; there arent as many JavaScript tricks being used to make them seem more legitimate, which also makes it harder for technical countermeasures to find them," said Beardsley. "At the same time, we did see some phishers jump on [recent Microsoft vulnerabilities] in a manner more common among spyware writers; there are those who will create more sophisticated, exotic attacks, they just dont lend themselves to repeatability in the same way the simpler attacks do."

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