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Monkeyspaw Grabs Phishers

Open-source forensics tool pins down phishers where they live

If you want more detail on what's behind that phishing site, you're in luck.

TippingPoint, a division of 3Com, today released Monkeyspaw, an open-source phishing research tool that evaluates a Website's legitimacy and determines who owns the phishing Web server, how it is configured, and where it is located.

Monkeyspaw also lets you report the phishing site to authorities through CastleCops, which sends the data directly to 50 organizations worldwide, including the FBI and Anti-Phishing Working Group. Network administrators can also use the Monkeyspaw tool to block a phishing site based on its IP address.

"I wanted to write Monkeyspaw to assist Web forensic [specialists] like me to easily automate common tasks we do," says Tod Beardsley, TippingPoint's lead counter-fraud engineer and creator of Monkeyspaw. You'd typically need to use a command-line approach to investigate a phishing site, he says, but this is "one-click action."

This isn't the first tool to report exploits -- AOL and NetCraft offer anti-phishing toolbars that detect and report phishing exploits -- but Monkeyspaw also provides technical data on the source of those exploits.

"It seems like a great idea, but I'm not sure there's value for non-technical users," says researcher HD Moore. "It's a great way for a tech-savvy user to report phishing sites with minimal effort. So if it catches on, it means more phishing sites being reported."

The tool is aimed at security professionals who investigate security breaches and phishing exploits, Beardsley says. TippingPoint used Monkeyspaw, which works with other open-source tools such as Mozilla's Firefox, to gather recent phishing data it recently reported. (See Phishers Launch Zero-Day Exploits.)

He admits the tool could be used maliciously if it fell into the wrong hands. "But the only malicious thing they could do is get http headers," Beardsley says. "And people who want that information already have an automated means to do this."

Monkeyspaw can also run Website vulnerability tests for organizations, he says.

— Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor, Dark Reading

  • TippingPoint Technologies Inc. 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

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