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.

Endpoint

Scammers Fall in Love with Valentine's Day

Online dating profiles and social media accounts add to the rich data sources that allow criminals to tailor attacks.

US-CERT and Cupid don't often keep company, but this Valentine's Day is being marked by new threats to those seeking romance and new warnings from the federal cybersecurity group.

A notice from US-CERT points to an FTC blog post about how consumers can protect themselves from online scams involving dating sites, personal messaging systems, and the promise of romance and companionship from online strangers.

The general warning comes as specific scams are being exposed by online researchers. For example, researchers at Agari Data have followed a Nigeria-based group dubbed "Scarlet Widow" since 2017 as they exploited vulnerable populations, moving from romantic "attacks" against isolated farmers and individuals with disabilities to business email compromises that raised the financial stakes.

Security experts aren't optimistic about finding a quick solution.

"These types of scams will not be disappearing anytime soon," says Anupam Sahai, vice president of product management at Cavirin. "Certain times of the year, Valentine's Day included, bring out both the best and the worst in us. Here, hackers prey on those most vulnerable, especially those who are possibly recovering from a family tragedy without a support network. Given the emotions, it is no surprise that romance scam losses, averaging $2,600 each, are seven times greater than most other frauds."

The primary issue is that these attacks aren't assaults on technology vulnerabilities — they prey on human limitations.

"These kinds of romance scams are very targeted social engineering attacks, effectively 'hacking' the victim's emotions rather than trying to perform a technical assault," says Nathan Wenzler, senior director of cybersecurity at Moss Adams. "Unfortunately, these kinds of attacks are becoming more and more commonplace, not only because of the large financial incentive, but because it has become easier than ever to tailor these scams for each individual victim."

Online dating profiles and social media accounts add to the rich data sources that allow criminals to tailor attacks as they look to exploit individuals in the same way that spear-phishing attacks exploit corporate employees to extract credentials and critical business data.

The FTC provides tips for avoiding victimization that include never sending money to an online romantic contact, taking the relationship slowly, doing an online image search to see whether the photo for the person's account appears with a different name, and discussing the relationship with friends and family members from real life. US-Cert has its own set of tips for staying safe on social media.

"No matter how desirable a person may sound online, everyone must tread with caution," says Chris Morales, head of security analytics at Vectra. "Only trust those you know in person, and even then be cautious. In our connected society, everyone needs to remember a basic rule we were taught as a child, especially with people you can’t even look in the eye: Don't talk to strangers."

Related Content:

 

 

 

Join Dark Reading LIVE for two cybersecurity summits at Interop 2019. Learn from the industry's most knowledgeable IT security experts. Check out the Interop agenda here.

Curtis Franklin Jr. is Senior Editor at Dark Reading. In this role he focuses on product and technology coverage for the publication. In addition he works on audio and video programming for Dark Reading and contributes to activities at Interop ITX, Black Hat, INsecurity, and ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Doug1433
50%
50%
Doug1433,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/26/2019 | 8:09:41 PM
Ghana scam
Let me share my story,am no more ashamed as I start to campaign against romance scam in the future Unfortunately I was scammed thousands of dollars in 2017 and found out when I contacted the Ghana Crime Unit-info.ghanapolice at consultant dot com and was given full details of the scam and played along and was exact ,evidence and receipt of money transfer was sent to the Unit and they checked the bank and got the person arrested and justice was served. They used look alike bank websites from hsbc and other official government sites..
Stop Defending Everything
Kevin Kurzawa, Senior Information Security Auditor,  2/12/2020
Small Business Security: 5 Tips on How and Where to Start
Mike Puglia, Chief Strategy Officer at Kaseya,  2/13/2020
5 Common Errors That Allow Attackers to Go Undetected
Matt Middleton-Leal, General Manager and Chief Security Strategist, Netwrix,  2/12/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
6 Emerging Cyber Threats That Enterprises Face in 2020
This Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at six emerging cyber threats that enterprises could face in 2020. Download your copy today!
Flash Poll
How Enterprises Are Developing and Maintaining Secure Applications
How Enterprises Are Developing and Maintaining Secure Applications
The concept of application security is well known, but application security testing and remediation processes remain unbalanced. Most organizations are confident in their approach to AppSec, although others seem to have no approach at all. Read this report to find out more.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-20477
PUBLISHED: 2020-02-19
PyYAML 5.1 through 5.1.2 has insufficient restrictions on the load and load_all functions because of a class deserialization issue, e.g., Popen is a class in the subprocess module. NOTE: this issue exists because of an incomplete fix for CVE-2017-18342.
CVE-2019-20478
PUBLISHED: 2020-02-19
In ruamel.yaml through 0.16.7, the load method allows remote code execution if the application calls this method with an untrusted argument. In other words, this issue affects developers who are unaware of the need to use methods such as safe_load in these use cases.
CVE-2011-2054
PUBLISHED: 2020-02-19
A vulnerability in the Cisco ASA that could allow a remote attacker to successfully authenticate using the Cisco AnyConnect VPN client if the Secondary Authentication type is LDAP and the password is left blank, providing the primary credentials are correct. The vulnerabilities is due to improper in...
CVE-2015-0749
PUBLISHED: 2020-02-19
A vulnerability in Cisco Unified Communications Manager could allow an unauthenticated, remote attacker to conduct a cross-site scripting (XSS) attack on the affected software. The vulnerabilities is due to improper input validation of certain parameters passed to the affected software. An attacker ...
CVE-2015-9543
PUBLISHED: 2020-02-19
An issue was discovered in OpenStack Nova before 18.2.4, 19.x before 19.1.0, and 20.x before 20.1.0. It can leak consoleauth tokens into log files. An attacker with read access to the service's logs may obtain tokens used for console access. All Nova setups using novncproxy are affected. This is rel...