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.

Vulnerabilities / Threats

3/4/2008
07:33 AM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

New Method IDs Phishing, Malicious Domains

Researchers at a secretive security summit hosted by Yahoo revealed new ways they are finding phishers and other bad sites

At a closed-door security summit hosted on Yahoo’s Sunnyvale campus last week, a researcher demonstrated a new technique to more easily identify phishing and other malicious Websites.

Dan Hubbard, vice president of security research for Websense, showed a tool Websense researchers have built that detects domains that were automatically registered by machines rather than humans -- a method increasingly being used by the bad guys, he says. “[Automation] is being used more and more,” Hubbard says.

Not much of the contents of the so-called ISOI conference typically seeps beyond the confines of this annual closed-door event: It’s set up to accommodate the privacy and sensitivity of the content and information shared, as well as the attendees themselves. But some participants, including Hubbard, were willing to discuss some elements of the ISOI 4 summit.

In case you were wondering how long it takes for stolen data to actually get exploited, some researchers at the ISOI4 reported that there’s about a five-hour window once a phishing site goes up to tear it down before the bad guys start using the stolen data, which is typically credit card numbers.

Meanwhile, Websense’s new Lexi-Rep tool , which it uses internally in its Web security research, gives researchers -- and eventually, maybe domain registrars -- a way to sniff out any suspicious domains that get automatically set up. “Increasingly, we’re seeing more bots, keyloggers, and Trojans automatically connecting to domains,” Hubbard says. “And people are now automatically registering these domains without a human involved.”

The tool’s algorithm determines whether a domain name was registered by man or machine, by assessing whether the domain and URL are “human consumable,” or “whether someone would type that into a URL or search for that” site. It scores the likelihood of maliciousness of the domain and host name based on patterns in the name.

So while users may not notice that a phony “eBay.com” URL has a wild mix of random letters and numbers appended to it since the entire URL may not show up in their browser, this algorithm is aimed at nabbing any likely suspects. The pair of letters such as “JX” or “JW” in a domain, for example, are less likely to be paired together in English lexicon than, say, “TH.” “’TH’ would score very high because those two letters are likely to appear together, but ‘JW’ and ‘JX’ are not, so they would get a negative score,” Hubbard says. The algorithm weighs the scores and categorizes the sites, and sends some out for further analysis if needed.

The “bad” domain names then get blacklisted. Hubbard says the tool has an a 99.9 percent rate of accuracy, and that automatically generated domains to date represent over 1 percent of the nearly 1 million domains registered each day, but that share is rising.

Hubbard says Websense is happy to share the tool with domain registrars if they are interested in it -- it’s avoiding going the open source route because it doesn’t want the technology falling into the hands of the bad guys, who then could figure out how to circumvent it.

“I can see how this approach can help alert on some flavors of the domains phishers may register,” says Nitesh Dhanjani, a researcher who, along with fellow researcher Billy Rios, recently infiltrated the phisher community to get an inside look at how it operates. “However, phishers often set up their sites on compromised hosts and use the existing domain name structures, and they also use approaches that are hard to reduce into specific patterns. So although this sort of an automated approach will have positive impact, it shouldn't be the only technique businesses rely on to find out the URLs where phishing sites targeting them have been set up.” (See Researchers Expose 'Stupid Phisher Tricks'.)

Hubbard noted that data such as history of the IP, network, ASN, registration details, site content, search results, and email volumes, can also be factored in with a domain's scoring.

Meanwhile, Gadi Evron, one of the organizers of the ISOI 4 summit, says law enforcement, researchers, and the industry are getting better organized in fighting cybercrime, but they still have a ways to go. “We’re not really affecting the business of the criminals,” Evron says -- the key is to move past a reactive approach to threats.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

  • Websense Inc. (Nasdaq: WBSN)

    Kelly Jackson Higgins is Executive Editor at DarkReading.com. 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
    AI Is Everywhere, but Don't Ignore the Basics
    Howie Xu, Vice President of AI and Machine Learning at Zscaler,  9/10/2019
    Fed Kaspersky Ban Made Permanent by New Rules
    Dark Reading Staff 9/11/2019
    Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
    White Papers
    Video
    Cartoon Contest
    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
    The State of IT Operations and Cybersecurity Operations
    The State of IT Operations and Cybersecurity Operations
    Your enterprise's cyber risk may depend upon the relationship between the IT team and the security team. Heres some insight on what's working and what isn't in the data center.
    Twitter Feed
    Dark Reading - Bug Report
    Bug Report
    Enterprise Vulnerabilities
    From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
    CVE-2019-14540
    PUBLISHED: 2019-09-15
    A Polymorphic Typing issue was discovered in FasterXML jackson-databind before 2.9.10. It is related to com.zaxxer.hikari.HikariConfig.
    CVE-2019-16332
    PUBLISHED: 2019-09-15
    In the api-bearer-auth plugin before 20190907 for WordPress, the server parameter is not correctly filtered in the swagger-config.yaml.php file, and it is possible to inject JavaScript code, aka XSS.
    CVE-2019-16333
    PUBLISHED: 2019-09-15
    GetSimple CMS v3.3.15 has Persistent Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) in admin/theme-edit.php.
    CVE-2019-16334
    PUBLISHED: 2019-09-15
    In Bludit v3.9.2, there is a persistent XSS vulnerability in the Categories -> Add New Category -> Name field. NOTE: this may overlap CVE-2017-16636.
    CVE-2019-16335
    PUBLISHED: 2019-09-15
    A Polymorphic Typing issue was discovered in FasterXML jackson-databind before 2.9.10. It is related to com.zaxxer.hikari.HikariDataSource. This is a different vulnerability than CVE-2019-14540.