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People Suck at Spotting Phishing 317

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the no-doubt-here dept.
JohnGrahamCumming writes "Initial results at SpamOrHam.org show that people don't fare well when trying to spot spams and phishes. This blog entry shows some actual spams and phishes that people fell for, as well as genuine messages that they think are spam." The thing about these s[cp]ams is that they must work sometimes. When I see the messages, I can't fathom 'how'.
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People Suck at Spotting Phishing

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  • by KIFulgore (972701) on Monday May 15, 2006 @10:35AM (#15334851)
    At what point in history was this not a problem? Can't say I'm surprised...
    • by SupremeTaco (844794) on Monday May 15, 2006 @10:48AM (#15334991)
      Problem is, people often mistake unwanted email for unsolicited email. I don't want to hear from Travelocity every week, with their weekly specials. It's unwanted, but I can cancel their letter if it gets irritating enough. The V14Gr4 ads, are not easily (or at all) cancellable. When you blend the two types of emails, people do tend to misclassify them.
      • That is true, I get more "unwanted" emails than "unsolicited" (though I always look forward to daily /. updates). I do feel bad for people that think they can just take their PC home, plug it in, and start using it like a toaster or washing machine. My parents repeatedly ask me if there's a program I can install, or a filter I can set up, to "get rid of all the spam." First off, I'm sure I'd be a billionaire if I could do that. Secondly, it's tough to make people (especially parents) understand there's
      • I don't want to hear from Travelocity every week

        Use SpamGourmet, url in my url field above.

        With spamgourmet, you can create a new valid email on the fly in the format of:

        newAccountName.X.myUserID@spamgourmet.com

        At any time, newAccountName can be used. So travelocity can be use, or travel. or t, or tv, or whatever.

        X is the number of mails you want to receive to that email. You can increase or decrease X if need be. 5 is usually sufficient for an online purchase.

        myUserID is, well my userID that I use to lo
    • The problem is that while con men target idiots directly like snipers, phishers and spammers pull out a machine gun and mow down everyone on the street.

      You might be smart enough not to lose your shirt to a con artist, but if a new one knocks on your door every five minutes, you're going to be pretty damn annoyed.
  • While it would be nice if there was a test or three that a person was required to take in order to do anything online... the fact that anyone is able to buy a PC and plug it into the internet means that there are a lot of... uninformed people out there.

    It's the same group that replies to spam messages asking to be removed, purchase from spammers and leaves their PC's connected 24/7 without spending anytime to patch it.

    So long as these people exist, nothing should be a surprise as to the effectiveness of phi
    • by maxwell demon (590494) on Monday May 15, 2006 @10:41AM (#15334925) Journal
      Ah, and by the way, there are many people falling for fraud on the front door. We really shouldn't allow people to open the front door if they have not passed a test or three. The fact that anyone is able to open his front door means that there are a lot of ... uninformed people out there.
    • by gstoddart (321705) on Monday May 15, 2006 @10:46AM (#15334960) Homepage
      While it would be nice if there was a test or three that a person was required to take in order to do anything online... the fact that anyone is able to buy a PC and plug it into the internet means that there are a lot of... uninformed people out there.

      That might be a little harsh. We're seeing increasingly sophisticated phishing stuff -- right down to building a look-alike site of the bank which they are pretending to be.

      I think it's getting increasingly difficult for even people who know what they're looking for to spot.

      Yes, people need to learn the basics of how to spot and avoid spam and phishing. But, the increasing sophistication of the bad guys makes it a difficult thing to always identify.

      Cheers
      • We're seeing increasingly sophisticated phishing stuff -- right down to building a look-alike site of the bank which they are pretending to be.

        Many times, they let the bank serve the images for them. Saves the bandwidth on their stolen or owned box, and looks more legit.

        A universal precaution I tell people.

        1) don't use HTML email. This was a mistake from day one. Text is fine. HTML belongs on the web.

        2) Never, ever, ever, click on an url in a mail, even if its text.

        If your bank is saying that your accou
      • "That might be a little harsh. We're seeing increasingly sophisticated phishing stuff -- right down to building a look-alike site of the bank which they are pretending to be."

        There is absolutely nothing sophisticated about phishing. It is rudimentary at best, and 100% avoidable.

        1) If you get business-looking email from someone you don't have an existing business relationship with, it's not legitimate.

        2) If you get email with a link to a site you have a business relation with, then type in the URL from the
        • I am astonished that people abandon their common sense at the modem (this isn't aimed at the poster. It's just a general observation made at a convenient moment).

          I don't think its people abandoning their common sense as you say.

          I think that if someone forged a letter which appeared to be from the actual bank you deal with, sent it to you in what appears to be their stationary and envelopes, and used a large amount of legitimate information to indicate that a new department needs to contact you and gave you

    • by NoTheory (580275) on Monday May 15, 2006 @10:52AM (#15335016)
      I think a lot of people are being unfair. With instructions like this on SpamOrHam:
      Please read the message below, enter the verification code in the box (if asked) and then click one of the three buttons. If you think the message is a spam click This is Spam, if you think it's a genuine message click This is Ham, and if you are not sure click I'm not sure. You are seeing the message as displayed in Microsoft Outlook and the raw message as it is seen by your email program. In the raw message, first the headers are shown (with From, To and Subject highlighted in bold) and then the body of the message follows colored blue.
      I don't see how you could possibly think that the results of such a website could be meaningful. Spam filtering is a contextual process. This site cripples the critical component that allows humans to behave differently from naive filters, i.e. judgement based on memory. The claim being made here is that humans can't identify other people's spam (and this makes sense, how can you tell if you're shown a random email whether it's unsolicited or not? the only way you can is by knowing whether the recipient had been signed up for a mailing list or not!). You should NOT conclude, based on that fact, that humans are bad at identifying their own spam.
    • While it would be nice if there was a test or three that a person was required to take in order to do anything online... the fact that anyone is able to buy a PC and plug it into the internet means that there are a lot of... uninformed people out there.

      There used to be a test; back before connecting to the Internet was a matter of plugging the cable from your cablemodem into the back of your computer and clicking 'OK' on all the prompts, you actually had to have enough technical savvy to be able to set u

  • by yagu (721525) * <yayagu@noSPaM.gmail.com> on Monday May 15, 2006 @10:35AM (#15334854) Journal

    I've seen more sophisticated phishing examples by far, and some are indistinguishable from what might be the real thing. The distinguishing factor from a genuine missive is the best phishes have links to bogus addresses (sometimes denoted with only an IP address), and the destination site asks for information company's won't ask for from an e-mail.

    One of the best phishes I've seen was sent to me -- it was ostensibly from my phone company, and it described a problem with my on-line bill pay (I don't). The letter was nicely formatted with the colors and icons of my phone company. The link was a giveaway, when I rolled over it, I could see the IP address, not a phone company web-site.

    I researched this a bit more, went to my phone company's web site, and downloaded their graphics. A bit-for-bit comparison of their icons, etc., and the phishers showed them to be identical. (Interestingly, this puts phishers also in the position of being guilty of more crime: copyright violations.)

    Had my suspicions not been raised by the fact I wasn't participating in on-line bill pay and the phish indicated that problem, and had I not seen the IP address by rolling over the link (which I only did because of above suspicion), I easily could have been convinced I was dealing with a real e-mail (NOTE: this was two years ago, before phishing had become real big, and it was my first incident.)

    I can easily believe many, if not most could fall for well crafted phishing expeditions. I would agree with the cited article, those are weak examples unlikely to catch savvy users (though they still could catch the naive, of which there are millions!). (And, I would claim some of the examples really are nothing more than SPAM.)

    • by Asphalt (529464) on Monday May 15, 2006 @10:46AM (#15334966)
      I can easily believe many, if not most could fall for well crafted phishing expeditions. I would agree with the cited article, those are weak examples unlikely to catch savvy users (though they still could catch the naive, of which there are millions!). (And, I would claim some of the examples really are nothing more than SPAM.)

      I agree with you. Some are sophisticated, but the link is ALWAYS a give away. It is either some kind of redirect, an IP address, or a Bogus URL altogether.

      Then again, how many people that use AOL know what an IP address is? 10 ... 20%?

      Fine, they obviously do work.

      But, this is what I don't understand ...

      How do these people avoid getting busted? They have IP addresses that point directly to the fake server. Finding out who owns the servers and where it is should be fairly elementary.

      I mean, Sony/BMG can track down the exact studio apartment in Chicago of someone who downloaded "Ooops, I Did It Again", but we have people conducting massive financial and wire fraud with blatantly displayed IP addresses, and we can't just go an snatch them by the by the head and give them a solid flogging?

      Okay, so many are in another countries. But how many countries DON'T have laws against this?

      Post a threat against the President, and the Secret Service would be at your door with K-Y and rubber gloves in 3 minutes and 21 seconds. Attempt global financial fraud, broadcast your IP, and everything is cool?

      How do these people NOT get busted, and busted hard?

      I don't get it.

      • by FireFury03 (653718) <slashdot@NOspam.nexusuk.org> on Monday May 15, 2006 @10:56AM (#15335053) Homepage
        How do these people avoid getting busted? They have IP addresses that point directly to the fake server. Finding out who owns the servers and where it is should be fairly elementary.

        Because the person who owns the server is almost always some home user who plugged their Windows box directly into the internet. In the same way as compromised boxes are used to send spam, perform DDoS attacks, etc they are also used to run web servers for phishers.

        How do these people NOT get busted, and busted hard?

        As much as I like the idea of throwing people in jail who have too little clue to secure their machines, I'm afraid I don't think it'll do a lot to stop the phishers.
        • Because the person who owns the server is almost always some home user who plugged their Windows box directly into the internet. In the same way as compromised boxes are used to send spam, perform DDoS attacks, etc they are also used to run web servers for phishers.

          Agreed. But wouldn't the ISP of the innocent user have some kind of record of where the fraud messages are being sent?

          Earthlink (or whatever the ISP was) was able to tell the DC Police the exact locations that Chandra Levy pulled up on Mapqu

      • Okay, so many are in another countries. But how many countries DON'T have laws against this?

        It's not a question necessarily of whether there's a law against it. If a United States law enforcement agency called up Bulgaria and said "Hey, there's a guy running a phishing expedition from your country, send the cops out to their house!", what are they chances they'd do anything? In the whole scheme of things, they've got much larger fish to fry than someone duping Americans into giving away their credit ca
        • In the whole scheme of things, they've got much larger fish to fry than someone duping Americans into giving away their credit card numbers.

          When the banks and large corporations start hurting and eating more and more of this fraudlent activity, I have feeling it will be bumped up a notch or two on the priority scale.

          The only reason it has not reached this level already is because many of the attempts to date have been very inept and amatuer.

          As they get better and more sophisticated, success rates will

      • I'm curious what happens on these phishing sites once someone actually does log in and submits account information. Does the site just link off to the original site, where the user then has to log in again in order to actually change their online bill pay option?

        It seems that even if I got duped into believing that some email written in broken English was from my bank, and even if I went ahead and logged in to the phony site, once I got there I'd see that it wasn't really my bank's site. At that point I cou
        • by Asphalt (529464) on Monday May 15, 2006 @11:20AM (#15335246)
          It seems that even if I got duped into believing that some email written in broken English was from my bank, and even if I went ahead and logged in to the phony site, once I got there I'd see that it wasn't really my bank's site. At that point I could change my account information or cancel my credit card or whatever, and the info the phishers had harvested from me wouldn't be of any use to them.

          I have clicked on several obvious phish emailed specifically to see what happened.

          I would usually enter completely bogus information into it like:

          Usernname: Bunghole
          Password: eatmenowyoubuttmuch

          It would take me to a plain page that simply said "Thank you for verifying your information!" or somethign similar and generic.

          Every now and then it would redirect me to the real site.

          I've never actually gotten into anything that looked like an account site. Once you provide the username/password, they are done with you and the phish ends there.

          Sometimes it is fun to play around with the phishing scams. If everone who knew what they were clicked on them, and provided useless and inaccurate info, Phishing scams would become so overhwhwlmed with usueless information that they just might have to come up with another idea.

          Do your part! Screw with a scammer.

          • Do your part! Screw with a scammer.

            This may seem obvious, but I wouldn't play this kind of game with IE. Or from Windows at all, for that matter.

            • This may seem obvious, but I wouldn't play this kind of game with IE. Or from Windows at all, for that matter.

              Firefox. Java off. TOR Plugin Enabled.

              I always use this configuration when going to a site that I think is of questionable repute.

              It's slow, but it works.

              And to the following post, I don't think it would breed more phishers. You can only pound a banking site with bad usernames/passwords from the same subnet without someone noticing (I hope). The more junk they receive from knowledgable u

          • Be sure NOT to do this with IE. All phishig sites I have visited were chock full of browser exploits. You will almost always be prompted to install an ActiveX control or just have one pushed through an IE vulnerability for you (many fools are unpatched). McAfee was nice enough to tell me that it stopped IE from running a trojan from the temp folder without even asking me.

            I'd imagine they are doing this with Firefox vulnerabilities as well.
          • It would take me to a plain page that simply said "Thank you for verifying your information!" or somethign similar and generic.

            Every now and then it would redirect me to the real site.


            I got a Paypal phish like that. They were doing a man in the middle attack. I don't have a Pay Pal account, so I knew it was bogus. The real Paypal site rejected my login. I didn't think to check the IP addresses at that time to see if I still was on a man in the middle link. If I was, they could have automaticaly dumped
      • unfortunately, there are problems with that as well - there are some legit sites that will redirect you off of their main domain, sometimes even to an IP address. Insane? Yes. But it happens. So for people who actually DO know what the hell they're doing, the problem isn't phishes that look like real sites, it's real sites that look like phishes.

    • i have seen the paypal one a few times. i dont have paypal. as a result my rule is to never follow the link in any email. if i think there is something legitimate going on i will manually type in the web address for my credit card (or whoever sent the message) then see if there is some truth to it. seems reasonable to me.
    • by aussersterne (212916) on Monday May 15, 2006 @10:51AM (#15335014) Homepage
      I used to work inside eBay and saw some of the best-crafted phishes around. The phishers used to use our system to get as many official eBay messages as they could, just to be able to clone each of them and have a phish that was "real" in origin so that they could catch people. We gradually had to eliminate email that led back to the site. Some still presents a problem and is being exploited (i.e. the mail forwarding system that buyers/sellers use to communicate is currently being exploited by phishers).

      One thing you didn't mention that might even get some slashdotters is that the "@" symbol in a URL is used by most browsers in a way (for authentication) that makes it possible to also spoof domains in a phish link. Try going typing this address (into your URL bar and you'll see what I mean:

      http://www.ebay.com@64.236.24.12

      Firefox presents a warning in this case because you're being redirected to a site that doesn't require authentication (CNN.com) yet you've provided authentication information. If the destination site (i.e. phish destination) had been crafted to require authentication and accept "www.ebay.com" as valid data, you'd get no warning.

      Some of these URLs+site combinations had *very* well-crafted URLs using tricks like this that would almost certainly fool most users who had been told "don't click on a link unless it says it's going to 'ebay.com' in the status bar."

      • by fishbot (301821) on Monday May 15, 2006 @11:03AM (#15335096) Homepage
        Some of these URLs+site combinations had *very* well-crafted URLs using tricks like this that would almost certainly fool most users who had been told "don't click on a link unless it says it's going to 'ebay.com' in the status bar."

        That's why this is flawed advice, and it's why I don't give it. Instead, I tell people that they should NEVER click the link, even if it looks genuine. Instead, they should open their browser, type in the address or click their bookmark, and log in to their account.

        This will prove most scams immediately (e.g. if you can log in, then your account has obviously NOT been suspended ...), and the ones it doesn't will be easy to verify. If there is no warning that matches the email and you are still not convinced, phone them up or use the online support tools directly.

        Basically, the rule is the same as for unsolicited phone calls: always be the one to initiate the communication. If you phone your bank using the number on your statement, then you've got through to the right place. If you type the URL on your statement into the address bar, you've got to the right place. If you let somebody else initiate the communication, either by phoning you, sending email, fax, or whatever, and you trust them not to lie, then you're as good as caught already.
        • Basically, the rule is the same as for unsolicited phone calls: always be the one to initiate the communication.

          If someone claiming to be from your bank phones you then you ask them security questions, not the other way around.
      • by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdot@wor[ ]et ['f.n' in gap]> on Monday May 15, 2006 @11:14AM (#15335186)
        I've seen about two or three that were good.

        The best one yet is where the target link went to a website, and through some javascript, put an image over the URL bar! The image had the right URL in it, and if you moved the window around, the image moved too (though, because it was javascript, the image movement lagged a bit, so depending on how fast you moved the window, you could see the real URL, then the image jumped over it). The reason I spotted it? the image was off by several pixels either way - I thought the text was a few pixels too low in the addressbar (and it was too far left - it went over the icon left of the URL bar). (This was in IE. In Mozilla/Firefox, when I could get it to work, the image was in the completely wrong place). That was probably 1 in 1000, though.

        The other smart ones actually do verify the information you give them, too. I suppose for those, signing up with false eBay accounts and using that is good. (Good way to get rid of negative feedback accounts).

        The less-good ones had an image that was clickable. Discovered only because text that isn't normally clickable is.

        The vast majority are very poorly crafted emails, though. Spelling errors, sending more than one to the same email address (If you receive 3 or 4 Paypal or eBay phishes, it kinda gives the whole game away). And they don't hide the URL at all - just plain old non-redirector links. Phishing has reached the realm of the idiots.

        Luckily, eBay and Paypal have several characteristics I've noticed in their legit emails:

        1) If you use a separate email account for eBay and Paypal from your regular email, well, that is clue #1 if you receive an eBay or Paypal email in an account that isn't what you use for eBay and Paypal.
        2) eBay emails will *always* include your eBay username in the email, not the email address. Paypal emails will include your real name as registered. This detail is almost always impossible to get directly unless you've conducted business with the target through eBay or Paypal.
        3) eBay and Paypal use specific From addresses - all eBay item questions do *not* come from aw-confirm (that's only used by the bid confirmation system).
        4) For eBay specifically, if you get a phish for an item, the item description is always included, while phishes just give you the item number (because the item description will tell you "fake" immediately). In addition, all eBay messages appear in the "My eBay" message section. If unsure, log in to eBay and check there.
      • by gutnor (872759) on Monday May 15, 2006 @11:45AM (#15335453)
        For most webusers ( read Mom and Pop ) understanding the structure of a webaddress is completely mad. The first step is to explain why

        www.ebay.com is not the same company as www.ebay.com.checkyouraccount.ru because they have to read the address backward and seriously

        www.ebay.com.checkyouraccount.ru/~level1/level2/ch ecklogin?user=testuser

        becomes really insane !

        The problem is that after you ( painfully ) trained them, you notice that a lot of websites use insane url like that and yet perfectly valid one !

        Example: Hotmail login
        http://login.live.com/login.srf [live.com]?...
        after several loop through passport.com, ...

        and I also have to train my parents to use whois ???

        And don't forget that I had first to explain what is a 'OS', 'program' and finally what a 'browser' is.

        To result of all the lessons is that my father turned into an Internet paranoid. He is convinced his machine crawled under spywares and that every single website is a phishing attempt.
        And now, when he needs to access his bank account, I need to connect myself from my machine and tell him the result over the phone. The same when he need to buy something. He never uses his machine for anything remotly personal.

        That's real sad.

    • True.

      Once, my girlfriend was sitting in front of her computer, fiddling with a bank statement, because she received an email from "our bank", stating that she should go to their online banking service. Allegedly, she should check a payment. To do so, she had to enter the account number and the PIN.

      Fortunately, I saw her and could prevent her to click the submit button. I told her, that there is no bank in the world, asking customers to go online and enter those data. She'll never do that again.

      Sinc
  • do *NOT* manage business through e-mail! And if I have to, I'll make sure to add the involved people to my "safe list" or "address book".

    (Actually, it also helps when 90% of your mails are in spanish :P )
    • (a) Avoiding the use of email for business is surrending to the s[pc]ammers.

      (b) Do you have a trustworthy white list? I doubt it.
      • by Asphalt (529464) on Monday May 15, 2006 @10:53AM (#15335034)
        (a) Avoiding the use of email for business is surrending to the s[pc]ammers.

        I conduct almost all of my business online and I don't think this is necessary.

        I am never, ever asked for a password or identifying information via email. At least never by the legitimate company.

        And I never click a link in an email. If my bank/company wants me to update my information, I type their website URL by hand into Firefox, log into my account section, and do what I need to do.

        It basically comes down to this: Don't click links in email.

        This one basic rule really does solve 99.999% of all scam problems, while allowing you to conduct business online safely.

    • It would be nice if businesses would set their email with received receipts. If my ISP ever sends a message to me, they always have it set that I have to send a receipt back when I've read or deleted it. I suppose a spammer could do this, but wouldn't that make it more traceable?
  • Because... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by HaloZero (610207) <protodeka@gmMONETail.com minus painter> on Monday May 15, 2006 @10:37AM (#15334881) Homepage
    ...there is no patch for human stupidity. [jinx.com]

    Most users just don't know better, despite best efforts to educate them otherwise, or make the scams obviously fradulent. Ever seen that 'MSN will never ask you for your password!' type banner on things? Know how many people retain it? Very few.
  • A little off (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Golias (176380) on Monday May 15, 2006 @10:37AM (#15334882)
    He finds it strange that people called that message from "Keith" to be spam... but the thing is, if you have no idea who "Keith" is, it probably IS spam... and if you do know him, you probably would not mark it as such.

    The same goes for the US Airways thing. Yeah, it's an example of "not spam", but if you haven't recently bought a US Airways ticket, then the save bet would be that it is.

    Oh... and the nun joke is fucking hilarious. That alone made TFA worth reading.
    • Re:A little off (Score:2, Insightful)

      I find it strange that a web site would tell the reader what spam or ham is, based solely on the appearance or the content of the message. As someone said at last year's spam conference, "one man's spam is another man's ham". Each person has a different definition of what spam is, and filters should be able to sort messages based on your criteria. I know that if I receive a message claiming from Travelocity, I will classify it as spam, even if it is a genuine Travelocity message. I have never done business
    • Yes. For me either the Travelocity or the US Airways message would be spam as I have no business relationship with either organization and no interest in creating one. Asking people to identify spam without context is silly.
  • by seanadams.com (463190) * on Monday May 15, 2006 @10:37AM (#15334884) Homepage
    TFA seems to be using a funny definition of spam [google.com].

    Most would say it's unsolicited commercial junk mail, but he seems to think it means "phony" email. Apparently he doesn't mind receiving weekly airfare specials containing choice bits like "BID FOR TICKETS TO THE BIG GAME IN THE BIG EASY!"

    Also re phishing: I'd say paypal is largely at fault for this. They do (did?) send an awful lot of useless mail full of clickable links - they were just begging to get phished because people were so used to receiving authentic but useless clickable mail from them. None of my other banks have done this (although one sends a fair amount of crap not specific to my account - rates and such).
  • by qwijibo (101731) on Monday May 15, 2006 @10:38AM (#15334892)
    So what if someone thinks a legitimate email from a bank is a phishing scam? Banks shouldn't be using email for anything serious because it makes their customers more susceptible to fraud. If people expect to receive legitimate and sensitive communications from their bank via email, it's that much easier to fall for it.

    For example, I got one this morning talking about my home loan account with a large bank I don't have an account with. I know it's a phishing scam just from the From and Subject lines. However, if my own bank sent an email talking about my actual mortgage, I'd treat it in exactly the same way. There's no benefit to giving an email the benefit of the doubt. If there is something my bank needs from me, they can send a letter and I'll go to my local branch to take care of it in person.
  • by American AC in Paris (230456) * on Monday May 15, 2006 @10:39AM (#15334902) Homepage
    Let's say I handed you an alternator. Could you tell me whether or not it was a genuine, durable, manufacturer-approved alternator or a cheap, flimsy, fly-by-night knock-off? To be fair, I'll give you a sheet of paper with some advice on how to differentiate between genuine and knockoff alternators.

    Let's say I handed you an entire crate of auto parts, and told you that some of them may be genuine parts, while others might be knockoffs. I give you a whole binder, filled with instructions on how to differentiate between all the different "good" and "bad" parts. Some of these knockoffs are obvious fakes; others are quite cleverly done, requiring you to check for minute details such as whether or not inner surfaces are well-polished, or subtle discrepancies in serial number schemes and product logos.

    At what point do you just start winging it? After one day of studious sifting? After a week? A month? When you see a part that you're pretty sure is genuine, but would need to haul out the manual for ten minutes' worth of cross-checking part and serial number ranges to confirm this--at what point do you simply go with your gut?

    When somebody who knows what they're doing goes about trying to hoodwink your typical individual, it can be very hard for the individual to know when they're being hoodwinked, even if they know they might be being hoodwinked. It's part of human nature--there's a point at which you just throw your hands in the air and grant your trust to an unknown entity, because it's too tedious or time-consuming to check everything out. Given the average person--heck, even a person who knows a fair amount about the subject--there'll be a point where they just take the damn part and have it installed in their car, because they just want to be done with it and get on with their life. It's the same thing with phishing--unless you're one of those few individuals who has fairly advanced knowledge on the subject, you're eventually going to give up and make a gut-reaction decision to whether or not you "trust" the email you just got, simply because it's more trouble than it's worth to actually dig through it.

    • Interesting analogy, but there is one thing you fail to account for: phishing sites do not have legitimate URLs. That is all you need to remember, and all that needs to be taught to users - it'd be like your alternators all having a manufacturer name printed on them, except that it was misspelled or otherwise obfuscated on the fakes; there's no point checking how good or bad the fake is, just check if the name is legit or not, takes 10 seconds maximum. It can even be broken down into some kind of simple-ish
      • A user can't be relied upon to parse a URL correctly. How about htt p://www.yahoo.com:776AAAS0ER@1113982867 ? How many users can easily tell that this does not go to Yahoo?
      • That is exactly the point, everyone on Slashdot knows what a ligit URL looks like, but most people don't. To the average person, they all look the same. Even developers on the same team sometimes have to ask what another developer had in mind when creating a url for an app.

        Here is another analogy:

        Take a clear glass, and fill it with tap water.
        Now tell me which water molecules have pollutants and which don't.
    • You got a proper alternator and a shoddy one. Right. Okay. How about this test. LOOK AT THE BOX!

      If one comes with the logo of your car brand and the other comes in a plastic bag with chinese instructions. Easy choice.

      I only know a bit about mopeds (50cc limited bikes) because there as a huge industry for cheap parts but they really sucked donkey balls. Very poor quality and it showed.

      Easily.

      Perhaps alternators are different but I can tell the difference between a shoddy muffler and a good one in a secon

      • by American AC in Paris (230456) * on Monday May 15, 2006 @11:26AM (#15335286) Homepage
        You got a proper alternator and a shoddy one. Right. Okay. How about this test. LOOK AT THE BOX! If one comes with the logo of your car brand and the other comes in a plastic bag with chinese instructions. Easy choice.

        ...yes, because a skilled counterfeiter wouldn't have the sense to duplicate a manufacturer's packaging, just as a skilled phisher doesn't have the sense to use anything other than "Gimm3 ur info ha ha lollerbate sux0r!" as bait.

        EVERY serious site has a disclaimer stating they will NOT ask you for your details by email. EVERY scam involves them sending an email asking for your details.

        In the early days, yes. Now, many phishers have wised up. They'll send you a phish that, save for one or two links, looks absolutely legitimate. You click the link, it sends you to a page at ebay.verification-department.com that mimics an actual eBay login page. You'll "log in", then they'll welcome you and very professionally gather your information--all, of course, after you've "logged in" to their system.

        You can't cheat a honest man

        Oh, you most certainly can. Just 'cause something rolls off the tongue nicely doesn't mean it's true.

        and you can't phis a person who thinks.

        Again, we're talking about attrition and trust. Unless you have a quite solid understanding of what phishing is, how to identify it, and how to go about avoiding it, you're going to eventually just trust something that looks legitimate enough. It's simply not feasible to expect that every single user of email will have enough technical know-how to identify and avoid getting phished.

        You've got telephone slamming, you've got phishing, you've got insurance fraud, you've got pyramid schemes, you've got con artists--if we were all simply smart enough to know a rat when we saw one, none of these would be a problem. The problem is that many, many people have ductile minds and want to trust other people. If you're somebody who is willing to cheat another person out of their money, odds are that you'll eventually nail somebody. It's attrition, plain and simple--eventually, people simply let their guard down, even if only for a moment.

      • If one comes with the logo of your car brand and the other comes in a plastic bag with chinese instructions. Easy choice.

        Unfortunately, #2 ("plastic bag with Chinese instructions") describes many of the "real" computer parts I've bought...

        I agree with you in part; anybody who decides that the "BUY H3rb@| V1@gRa N0W!!!!!!!!" email is worth checking out is probably a lost cause. But a lot of people don't know how to tell what's real and what's not on the Internet, because it's not as simple as PBwCI. Some

    • That's not an entirely accurate analogy; you're making things more complex than they are. A better one is that you get a few car parts in the mail every week. Included in each package is an admonishment that you need to get it installed, lest your car stops running tomorrow.

      Does this sound a bit absurd because car manufacturers don't actually mail parts directly customers during a recall? Agreed. And my bank doesn't email me when there's a problem with my account. "Do not click any links in emails that sol
    • Let's say I handed you an entire crate of auto parts, and told you that some of them may be genuine parts, while others might be knockoffs. I give you a whole binder, filled with instructions on how to differentiate between all the different "good" and "bad" parts. Some of these knockoffs are obvious fakes; others are quite cleverly done, requiring you to check for minute details such as whether or not inner surfaces are well-polished, or subtle discrepancies in serial number schemes and product logos.

      Kn

    • I also blame some of the genuine sites for inculcating bad habits.

      My last two rate change emails from DirecTV did not have the rate changes in the mail, nor was the info accessible if you went to DirectTV and logged into your account. Instead, it had a link that led to a *third-party* site.

      SallieMae communicates about my student loan by emailing PDFs that you are supposed to put your password into to unlock. Unbelievable.
  • by shreevatsa (845645) <shreevatsa.slashdot@gmai l . com> on Monday May 15, 2006 @10:39AM (#15334903)
    As someone said, think of how stupid the average person is, and remember half the people are even stupid than that. People suck at spotting when they're being cheated or lied to, which is why phishing, advertisers, and politicians merrily thrive.
    • Lucky for them I have a training course on how to prevent this. Anyone interested please send me your name, phone number, mailing address and credit card number and I will get you signed up RIGHT AWAY!!!

      Remember, you never spend enough to protect yourself!!!

      For the humor impaired, this was a joke...

  • *Groan* (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Noryungi (70322) on Monday May 15, 2006 @10:40AM (#15334912) Homepage Journal
    For pete's sake people, if you have to show genuine emails, try at leat to sanitize them a little. Some of the 'ham' emails shown still have the full contact information, including the original email address. That's what I call dangerous!

    If you don't believe me, go to the web site, and try classifying some emails... You'll see what I mean...
    • I wonder where they're getting the emails from, originally. I noticed a lot of them are @enron.com email addresses, which makes me wonder if they weren't pulled from some sort of public records somewhere. I assume during an investigation if emails were subpoenaed as part of discovery, and subsequently became part of the court's records, they'd be public domain just like other Government documents. That would at least explain the Enron emails, I'm still wondering about all the other ones.
  • We have reached a stage where people don't think twice about the path taken to make a quick buck. And the increase in phishing attacks only goes on to prove it. And people (especially those who have just taken their first few steps in getting online) fall for the ploys of these criminal activities more frequently.
  • Well..... (Score:3, Informative)

    by SatanicPuppy (611928) <SatanicpuppyNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday May 15, 2006 @10:42AM (#15334933) Journal
    Mind you, I think that that type of phish is the most sophisticated type of phish, being both elegant and simple. I "fell" for one of those back in the day, in that I got an email from my bank, and it notified me of some account change, so I immediately and without checking the validity of the link on the email...called my bank on the phone and said, "What the hell is up with this?"

    They of course, didn't know anything about it, I checked the link and realized it was false. That was just long term ingrained habit that puleld me out of that one, because it was an excellent phish. But how do you teach those habits of suspicion to a layman?

    It's just a security issue. I deal with passwords all day every day, and people are awful with their password security. It just doesn't make any sense to them, and they all think that the consequences for this or that little security breach are harmless, and so when something like this comes along, they fall for it, hook, line, and sinker.
  • its all a scam (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Geekboy(Wizard) (87906) <spambox@the a p t . org> on Monday May 15, 2006 @10:45AM (#15334952) Homepage Journal
    I treat all of those emails as a phishing attempt. If I think it has the possibility of being legit, I type in the appropriate web address (no, I don't cut-n-paste, I type in the previous login site), login and verify the contents.
  • Duuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!

    Look, your average Joe is not sophisticated; they're not going to know to look at the links in a phishing email and note they don't point to their bank's valid web address nor be able to do a DNS lookup to figure out that Joe Whathisface is not the owner of the bank's valid domain name. They don't care about this. It's the same thing that happens when people get those fake sweepstakes things in the mail saying they're won something and, oh by the way, could you sed

    • Put a Ford Escort engine in a Porsche 911 Turbo body and I bet 70% of the people you pull off the street would drive it and not know any better. For them, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it's a duck.

      If you chop off a duck's feet and surgically attach sparrow feet, it will no longer walk like a duck.

      But yeah, duuuuuh. People are gullible, what else is new?
  • by brouski (827510) on Monday May 15, 2006 @10:46AM (#15334962)
    Evil will always triumph, because good is dumb.
  • by davidwr (791652) on Monday May 15, 2006 @10:48AM (#15334985) Homepage Journal
    Email clients and servers need to start automatically looking at the chain of IP addresses or domains in the headers, and rating them accordingly.

    If any header lies, e.g. IP address mismatches with domain name, or two successive Received-by headers don't have consistent information, then RED ALERT.

    If the From domain doesn't appear in top-most received line, YELLOW ALERT. If it doesn't appear in any line, RED ALERT.

    If the top-most received line's address is from a known spamming domain or open relay, RED ALERT.

    If any previous mail-server, such as your ISP's, tagged the message with YELLOW or RED alerts, your alert should be at least this high.

    Note that red and yellow alerts don't necessarily indicate spam. They are simply one of many indicators of spam, and should be used as input to the spam/ham decision-making process.
  • No HTML mail (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Neil Watson (60859) on Monday May 15, 2006 @10:52AM (#15335023) Homepage
    Stop using HTML or convert it plain text and it's hard not to spot a phish.
    • Stop using HTML or convert it plain text and it's hard not to spot a phish.

      SpamOrHam.org displays the raw message below the image. Just scroll down a bit.
    • Re:No HTML mail (Score:2, Insightful)

      Yes, I believe that HTML email is, in fact, a sin. It is stupid to render it, and a breach of etiquette to send it.
  • I often used to wonder just why I got so many spams which seemed identical to ones I've been getting for months. Surely by now everyone who would fall for it had done?

    Then one day, I bought something off ebay, and used paypal. About 4 minutes later, I got the ping of something arriving in my mail box. It was from paypal. It said my credit card payment had been refused. I realised I might have changed credit cards since I last used paypal, so off I went to log in and check my details were up to date.

    I got ab
  • In other news, 50% of people have below-average intelligence.

    Jokes about statistics aside, people falling for phishing is our fault. Our fault as in our industry's fault.

    We've spent so long training our parents, help-desk clients, and other tech-stupid creatures that the way to respond to mysterious dialog boxes is to "Just click OK!" that at this stage the damage is essentially permanent.

    Their natural instinct was to treat computers with suspicion, and we beat it out of them.

    Yay for us.
    • But we never told them to stop treating other people (or their computers) with suspicion. Now all we have to do is teach them how to tell the difference. ("It's simple, Dad. A real modal dialog box won't let you do anything until in the current application until you answer its question. This popup doesn't intercept your inputs to the rest of the browser like a dialog box would, see? And notice how the cursor turns into the pointing finger that signifies a link?") [cue hysterical laughter/weeping].
  • by PinkyDead (862370) on Monday May 15, 2006 @11:11AM (#15335160) Journal
    I was reading a Dilbert strip there recently where the PHB was interviewing candidates by showing them his junk mail and asking them what they would do with it.

    Another couple of candidates and he would get through his inbox.

    There's an intense feeling of Deja-Vu here.
  • Let's recite again the reasons tests like this don't reflect real-world conditions.
    1. When you receive email, you know whether the company it purports to be from is one that you do business with. Not so in this test.
    2. This is not your email inbox. In your own inbox, you know what emails stick out from the background of legitimate traffic.
    3. If you incorrectly classify email in this test as SPAM, this test calls that an error. In the wild, we call that "safe behavior".
  • I wonder if it's more a lack of training or if it's a personality trait to believe phishing?

    I would suggest it's mostly training, or a lack thereof, that leads people to thinking they have to validate their account. If they knew to check the URL, and beyond that knew their bank isn't going to email them, then this would hardly be a problem except for the most "simple" users who happen to be "simple" people too.
  • Gmail routes everything phishy to my spam box and puts a red bar over it. They are batting nearly 100% at spam blocking too. I get about 20 per day, and 1 or 2 slip through every other day on the average.

    The Phishes they catch are faily subtle, they are burying their evil link in HMTL which renders OK, and only the phony grammar of the message gives it away:

    "Once you have updated your account records, your
    PayPal=AE session will not be interrupted and will continue as normal. Go to the link below.


    h [paypal.com]
    • Ooops, that didn't work - now let's switch to code post mode....

      <a target=3D"_blank" onfiltered=3D"window.status=3D'https://www.pay=
      p al.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=3D_login-run';  return true;" href=3D"http://www.cttwmail.net:81/webscr/index.ph p">
            http://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=3D_login- run</a>


  • Without knowing the context of some of the messages, some of the messages labelled legitimate can easily be spam.

    They read every bit like other messages which are spam. Remember, spam is:

    Unsolicited Bulk Email.

    Reading those messages without knowing the user's history with the senders, they may or may not be legitimate.

    Many have softened and gone with the FTC's definition where it must be business-oriented, but as far as many in the anti in the community can be, it can be political[1], religious,
  • by necro81 (917438)
    A lot of the spam that's been sent my way by persons unknown have many random snippets of legitimate text in them, presumably to fool spam filters. I have had whole pages of The Hobbit quoted to me recently. I occassionally open one up to look at it (no attachments or images, just the plain text) and get entertained with very ethereal poetry. For example:

    In a trice without warning the face of nature
    grew sullen Black angry mouths, the clouds
    swallowed up the sun The air was dense with
    suppressed excit
  • Trial Copy? (Score:2, Informative)

    by 50m31sl4sh. (854939)
    Anyone spotted red text "TRIAL COPY" across the titlebars in the screenshots?
    Looks like a "feature" of some screenshot capture shareware.

    Nevertheless, I think (having in mind the topic of TFA) this doesn't add them much credibility.
  • MOST of those looked like spam to my eye (although I did get 100% on the test, having a fair idea what a spam filter looks for). The fact is, many of those e-mails are spam, they just happen to be "honest" spam (i.e., not phishing attempts).

    Question - if you opt in, is it still spam? In my (snail-mail) case, I get a catalog monthly from a certain firm. It's third-class bulk mail; to anybody but me I'm quite sure it looks like junk mail (the snail-mail equivalent of spam).

    So . . . if I've done business

  • Funny feeling (Score:5, Informative)

    by shumacher (199043) on Monday May 15, 2006 @11:25AM (#15335271) Homepage
    I completed about four tests before I started to get the feeling that I was actually working on training their filter. I felt like I should be charging a fee. Most of the tests are bogus. One email asked me to add some addresses to the "TW mailing list". I don't have context - in this scenario, do I work for an employer who has a "TW mailing list"? Do I manage it? The answer has everything to do with the way I'd rank it. In fact, most of the emails referred to specific people, and knowing or not knowing them would control the rating on the email.
  • by jridley (9305) on Monday May 15, 2006 @11:28AM (#15335302)
    Rule 1: It's almost certainly not legit, before you even look.
    Rule 2: If it seems legit, then go to your browser and manually go to the institution's website and log in normally, do not use hotlinks provided in any email.

    My rule 1 used to be just "it's not legit" - none of my financial institutions EVER contacted me via email up until about 6 months ago. Now they do, so I've modified it a bit.

    You'd think people would get a BIT of a clue from the fact that, like me, they must be getting very valid-looking emails from places that they don't even have accounts with. You'd think that would tell them something.
    • you forgot a rule:
      Rule #3: Turn of HTML in your email so that your links are text and you can see what they are.

      People are nieve and "probably" 80% of the people out there do not understand the internet. The rest of us do. Just look at the politicians that make laws to "govern" the internet. They don't understand what the hell they are doing.

  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Monday May 15, 2006 @11:30AM (#15335320) Homepage
    John Graham-Cumming says that the Travelocity email at the bottom of the his blog essay [jgc.org] "really is a genuine message from Travelocity and not a spam."

    I beg to differ. I have no problem believing that it "really is a genuine message from Travelocity."

    But spam doesn't mean "phony," it means "unsolicited commercial email." (And in my own opinion that includes "unknowingly 'solicited' commercial email.")

    In order for Graham-Cumming or anyone else to say that Travelocity email is not spam, they would need to know whether it was solicited. You can't tell by any examination of the message itself.

    If it was actively solicited by someone specifically checking a box requesting to be notified of offers, then, sure, it's not spam. If it was opt-out spam with the opt-out option hidden... or implicit... then it darn well is spam.

    Mostly likely this particular email is in a grey area... quite likely an opt-out was plainly visible, but needed to be actively chosen, at some point in the travel booking process where a customers thoughts are likely to be elsewhere (where IS that security code on the back of my credit card?).

    But it is absolutely wrong to stay that the Travelocity message is "not spam," just because it is really from Travelocity

    Spam is spam, even if it is a genuine email from a reliable company informing me of some truly valuable opportunity... _if I didn't ask the company to send me those emails._
  • by adavies42 (746183) on Monday May 15, 2006 @11:37AM (#15335379)
    Three words too long.
  • by Channard (693317) on Monday May 15, 2006 @11:43AM (#15335431) Journal
    'You know how dumb the average person is? Half of 'em are dumber than that.' Remember, just using computers does not mean someone's got a brain. You only have to work in tech support read some of the many internet message boards to realize that.

When you make your mark in the world, watch out for guys with erasers. -- The Wall Street Journal

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