Attacks/Breaches
6/8/2011
11:19 AM
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Spear Phishing Attacks On The Rise

Symantec warns that spear-phishing attack volume has hit a two-year high as attackers try to install botnet software, keylogging applications, or other malware.

Strategic Security Survey: Global Threat, LocalPain
Strategic Security Survey: Global Threat, Local Pain
(click image for larger view and for full slideshow)
Targeted email attacks are on the rise. In fact, the volume of such attacks has recently reached a two-year high.

That warning comes via Symantec, which said that it's now intercepting 85 targeted attacks per day--a subset of the actual number that would be seen on the Internet--which is the highest volume since March 2009, when it saw 107 attacks per day prior to that year's G20 conference in London.

Furthermore, the nature of such attacks appears to be evolving. "While some high-profile targeted attacks in 2010 attempted to steal intellectual property or cause physical damage, many of these targeted attacks preyed on individuals for their personal information," said Francis deSouza, group president of enterprise products and services for Symantec, in a blog post.

Symantec's warning came on the heels of last week's announcement from Google that it was seeing attacks that targeted specific Gmail users' accounts. Google's Eric Grosse, the engineering director of the Google Security Team, said the attack appeared to originate from China.

"We recently uncovered a campaign to collect user passwords, likely through phishing," said Grosse in a website post. "This campaign, which appears to originate from Jinan, China, affected what seem to be the personal Gmail accounts of hundreds of users including, among others, senior U.S. government officials, Chinese political activists, officials in several Asian countries (predominantly South Korea), military personnel and journalists."

"The goal of this effort seems to have been to monitor the contents of these users' emails, with the perpetrators apparently using stolen passwords to change peoples' forwarding and delegation settings," he said.

Grosse said that Google's investigation was aided by spear-phishing research published in February, which warned that attackers were using fake Gmail log-in pages to harvest log-in credentials, then forwarding email to an attacker-controlled account.

To mitigate the risk that these types of targeted attacks pose, Grosse offered numerous recommendations, including activating two-step verification for Gmail, which employs a phone and second password for signing in. He also recommended using a unique, strong password, and never entering it except for a proper sign-in prompt on a page encrypted via HTTPS, and watching for red "warning about suspicious activity" that appear above the Gmail inbox. Finally, he said that users should beware attempts to forward their accounts to strange addresses, or to delegate the account inappropriately.

Gmail tweaks aside, stopping targeted attacks remains quite difficult, as its success against numerous organizations, including the White House, as well as security powerhouse RSA, illustrates.

That's because many of these attacks employ so-called spear phishing techniques. Unlike regular phishing, which sends large numbers of emails to large numbers of people, spear-phishing refers to sending a phishing email to a particular person or relatively small group. Attackers may also heavily customize their spear-phishing emails, using public information gleaned from the Web, to make the emails seem more authentic.

The purpose of these targeted attacks it typically to get the recipient to execute an attachment, which is really malware, or to get them to visit a website that then attempts to exploit their PC using known vulnerabilities. In either case, the attacker's goal is to gain root-level access to the targeted PC, typically by installing botnet software, keylogging applications, or other malware.

In this new Tech Center report, we profile five database breaches--and extract the lessons to be learned from each. Plus: A rundown of six technologies to reduce your risk. Download it here (registration required).

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-3352
Published: 2014-08-30
Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud (aka Cisco Cloud Portal) 2008.3_SP9 and earlier does not properly consider whether a session is a problematic NULL session, which allows remote attackers to obtain sensitive information via crafted packets, related to an "iFrame vulnerability," aka Bug ID CSCuh...

CVE-2014-3908
Published: 2014-08-30
The Amazon.com Kindle application before 4.5.0 for Android does not verify X.509 certificates from SSL servers, which allows man-in-the-middle attackers to spoof servers and obtain sensitive information via a crafted certificate.

CVE-2010-5110
Published: 2014-08-29
DCTStream.cc in Poppler before 0.13.3 allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (crash) via a crafted PDF file.

CVE-2012-1503
Published: 2014-08-29
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in Six Apart (formerly Six Apart KK) Movable Type (MT) Pro 5.13 allows remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via the comment section.

CVE-2013-5467
Published: 2014-08-29
Monitoring Agent for UNIX Logs 6.2.0 through FP03, 6.2.1 through FP04, 6.2.2 through FP09, and 6.2.3 through FP04 and Monitoring Server (ms) and Shared Libraries (ax) 6.2.0 through FP03, 6.2.1 through FP04, 6.2.2 through FP08, 6.2.3 through FP01, and 6.3.0 through FP01 in IBM Tivoli Monitoring (ITM)...

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
This episode of Dark Reading Radio looks at infosec security from the big enterprise POV with interviews featuring Ron Plesco, Cyber Investigations, Intelligence & Analytics at KPMG; and Chris Inglis & Chris Bell of Securonix.