Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Attacks/Breaches

5/9/2007
09:00 AM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

The Phisher King

RSnake gets a real 'pisher' to describe how he baits the hook and reels in his catch

You see phishing attack attempts nearly every day, but what you don't see is the face behind the attack. In a rare glimpse into the mind of a phisher, hacker and security expert RSnake recently engaged an attacker who says he makes $3,000 to $4,000 dollars a day and was willing to share a bit about himself and how he operates.

RSnake, a.k.a. Robert Hansen, CEO of SecTheory and Dark Reading blogger, asked the phisher, called "lithium," how he operates, what technology he uses, and just how much money he makes off these scams. Lithium, who says he's 18 and has been phishing since he was 14, said he has stolen over 20 million identities, mostly via social networking worms. "I have so many hundreds of thousands of accounts to many websites I haven’t even got a chance to look through," he wrote to RSnake, who today published the responses on the ha.ckers.org blog.

While RSnake admitted he can't verify all of lithium's actual numbers, he said in response to comments on his ha.ckers blog that the phisher's story "jives" with that of traditional phishers.

RSnake also confirms that lithium is an actual phisher: "I found one of his old phishing sites," RSnake says. "I can't comment on the numbers, but yes, he was definitely really a social networking phisher."

Lithium says he got interested in phishing after realizing the scam emails his parents were getting were weak, but still basically worked. "So, I knew automatically I could come up with more efficient methods and have a far greater outcome."

Lithium only phishes about three or four times a week, and he targets social networking sites, mostly those frequented by the teen crowd. "5 times out of 10 the person uses the same password for their email account," he wrote. "Now depending what is inside their email inbox determines how much more profit I make. If an email account has one of the following paypal/egold/rapidshare/ebay accounts even the email account itself, I sell those to scammers."

The phisher said he typically tries to locate a domain name that looks "realistic" to the target, and then finds an anonymous host, typically offshore. "Although, I do tend to use compromised hosting accounts," he wrote. "Secondly, I view the page source. Then I alter the source code to post the forms information to my pishing [sic] site. Thirdly, I create a php file which will POST the current forms information to a text file on my server. I use the same php file with every site...Just minor alterations are needed since it’s mearly [sic] a few lines of php code."

RSnake asked him how many people he typically phishes per day. Depending on the size of the Website, lithium said, it's usually about 30,000.

HD Moore, director of security research for BreakingPoint Systems, says while lithium does match the typical profile of phishers, his "numbers seem a little on the high side."

Plus, lithium's days as a phisher could be numbered if he isn't careful. "Running a phishing site attracts attention -- it has to, or it won't work. Bragging about how much money you make is a sure sign you are going to get busted in the near future," Moore says.

Using freelance programmers is also a liability, Moore notes. "If any of them get audited on where their money comes from, you can bet they would turn over this guy in a heartbeat."

Lithium, meanwhile, told RSnake he uses a dedicated server, VPN, network encryption software, and a 1-Mbit/s ADSL line. Tool-wise, the phisher said he uses MyChanger for most social networking sites: "This makes pishing [sic] so much faster on social networking sites. Everything is automated! messaging/bulletins/comments/profile modifications it's great. Other than that, I get ALOT [sic] of custom programs built to suite [sic] my needs from freelance developers," he wrote.

How does he remain in the shadows? "I use VPN's, Dedicated servers, Proxies and my network traffic is encrypted. All payments are made through egold."

Interestingly, he admitted Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox 2.0's anti-phishing filters "cause the most irritation" of phishing deterrents available today.

But security experts say not much seems to hurt lithium and other phishers in the end. It's still always a game of catch-up for the good guys, says Jeremiah Grossman, founder and CTO of WhiteHat Security. "Microsoft and Mozilla spend years figuring out a workable solution, then a short time later, it's all for not. Bad guys can adapt a lot faster than the good guys, which is why our job is so much harder."

And the wealth of Web application bugs is keeping lithium in business -- for now, anyway: "Lazy web developers are the reason I'm still around pishing," lithium wrote.

— Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor, Dark Reading

  • BreakingPoint Systems
  • WhiteHat Security Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

    Comment  | 
    Print  | 
    More Insights
  • Comments
    Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
    Data Privacy Protections for the Most Vulnerable -- Children
    Dimitri Sirota, Founder & CEO of BigID,  10/17/2019
    Sodinokibi Ransomware: Where Attackers' Money Goes
    Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  10/15/2019
    Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
    White Papers
    Video
    Cartoon
    Current Issue
    7 Threats & Disruptive Forces Changing the Face of Cybersecurity
    This Dark Reading Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at the biggest emerging threats and disruptive forces that are changing the face of cybersecurity today.
    Flash Poll
    2019 Online Malware and Threats
    2019 Online Malware and Threats
    As cyberattacks become more frequent and more sophisticated, enterprise security teams are under unprecedented pressure to respond. Is your organization ready?
    Twitter Feed
    Dark Reading - Bug Report
    Bug Report
    Enterprise Vulnerabilities
    From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
    CVE-2019-18216
    PUBLISHED: 2019-10-20
    ** DISPUTED ** The BIOS configuration design on ASUS ROG Zephyrus M GM501GS laptops with BIOS 313 relies on the main battery instead of using a CMOS battery, which reduces the value of a protection mechanism in which booting from a USB device is prohibited. Attackers who have physical laptop access ...
    CVE-2019-18214
    PUBLISHED: 2019-10-19
    The Video_Converter app 0.1.0 for Nextcloud allows denial of service (CPU and memory consumption) via multiple concurrent conversions because many FFmpeg processes may be running at once. (The workload is not queued for serial execution.)
    CVE-2019-18202
    PUBLISHED: 2019-10-19
    Information Disclosure is possible on WAGO Series PFC100 and PFC200 devices before FW12 due to improper access control. A remote attacker can check for the existence of paths and file names via crafted HTTP requests.
    CVE-2019-18209
    PUBLISHED: 2019-10-19
    templates/pad.html in Etherpad-Lite 1.7.5 has XSS when the browser does not encode the path of the URL, as demonstrated by Internet Explorer.
    CVE-2019-18198
    PUBLISHED: 2019-10-18
    In the Linux kernel before 5.3.4, a reference count usage error in the fib6_rule_suppress() function in the fib6 suppression feature of net/ipv6/fib6_rules.c, when handling the FIB_LOOKUP_NOREF flag, can be exploited by a local attacker to corrupt memory, aka CID-ca7a03c41753.