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
Threaded  |  Newest First  |  Oldest First
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..
Mobile Banking Malware Up 50% in First Half of 2019
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  1/17/2020
Exploits Released for As-Yet Unpatched Critical Citrix Flaw
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  1/13/2020
Microsoft to Officially End Support for Windows 7, Server 2008
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  1/13/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
Current Issue
The Year in Security: 2019
This Tech Digest provides a wrap up and overview of the year's top cybersecurity news stories. It was a year of new twists on old threats, with fears of another WannaCry-type worm and of a possible botnet army of Wi-Fi routers. But 2019 also underscored the risk of firmware and trusted security tools harboring dangerous holes that cybercriminals and nation-state hackers could readily abuse. Read more.
Flash Poll
[Just Released] How Enterprises are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
[Just Released] How Enterprises are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
Organizations have invested in a sweeping array of security technologies to address challenges associated with the growing number of cybersecurity attacks. However, the complexity involved in managing these technologies is emerging as a major problem. Read this report to find out what your peers biggest security challenges are and the technologies they are using to address them.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-7227
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
Westermo MRD-315 1.7.3 and 1.7.4 devices have an information disclosure vulnerability that allows an authenticated remote attacker to retrieve the source code of different functions of the web application via requests that lack certain mandatory parameters. This affects ifaces-diag.asp, system.asp, ...
CVE-2019-15625
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
A memory usage vulnerability exists in Trend Micro Password Manager 3.8 that could allow an attacker with access and permissions to the victim's memory processes to extract sensitive information.
CVE-2019-19696
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
A RootCA vulnerability found in Trend Micro Password Manager for Windows and macOS exists where the localhost.key of RootCA.crt might be improperly accessed by an unauthorized party and could be used to create malicious self-signed SSL certificates, allowing an attacker to misdirect a user to phishi...
CVE-2019-19697
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
An arbitrary code execution vulnerability exists in the Trend Micro Security 2019 (v15) consumer family of products which could allow an attacker to gain elevated privileges and tamper with protected services by disabling or otherwise preventing them to start. An attacker must already have administr...
CVE-2019-20357
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
A Persistent Arbitrary Code Execution vulnerability exists in the Trend Micro Security 2020 (v160 and 2019 (v15) consumer familiy of products which could potentially allow an attacker the ability to create a malicious program to escalate privileges and attain persistence on a vulnerable system.