A combination of sheer coincidence and a phishing scam masquerading as an e-mail from eBay made Simon Moores very suspicious.
I was almost convinced, caught or conned, and it took a call to the head of security at eBay to confirm that the e-mail I had received was part of a much larger phishing scam, which was out to catch my credit card details and those of a million others.
Now, I’m not unfamiliar with phishing, after all, I write about e-crime regularly. However, on this occasion I had been editing my account details inside eBay, when an e-mail arrived with the message: “Unfortunately, eBay has not been able to authorise your credit/debit card. Your credit/debit card information must be updated on your eBay account immediately.”
As I have only just registered on eBay and had bought my first items the previous week the request that I visit http://www.ebaydbs.com and “Use this secure form to update your credit/debit card information on your eBay account”, had, I thought been triggered by my updating my account preferences.
But hold on a moment. What is ebaydbs.com? It certainly looks like eBay, but alarm bells started ringing in my head, so I picked up the phone and called my contact at the company.
“eBay never sends out messages of this kind asking for a customer’s account details," he told me. "It’s a coincidence that you happened to be doing what you were doing when the mail arrived. Have a look at the header," he suggested.
I did, and the e-mail return path goes email@example.com and so, unless eBay hosts its server in Turkey, there’s something wrong. Of course, the website resolves to a totally different address as well and exploits a well-known weakness in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, but that doesn’t help those who have parted with their credit card details. If this almost caught me, then it’s likely that a great many others may well discover some unexpected transactions on their Visa statements next month.
Such phishing expeditions are a regular fact of life now for banks and for popular auction sites like eBay, caught in an arms race with criminals who are becoming increasingly sophisticated in the way in which they exploit gaps in the technology to deceive the individual.
Fighting back once again, eBay has just launched a downloadable toolbar on eBay.com which will glow red if you visit a dummy eBay site and this is expected to be available in the UK very soon.
At the same time, large institutions, such as the banks are casting around for a foolproof method of assuring customers that what looks like the entry screen on a bank’s web page is actually the real thing. In a world of perfect digital copies, that isn’t always so easy.
Information theft is now the fastest growing fraud. If you haven’t bought a personal shredder, then get one now. Be deeply suspicious of any and every e-mail you receive that asks you for any detail of your life.
It’s not just the British government who wants to know everything about you. The criminals out there do too.
What do you think?
Have you been caught out by the phishers? Tell us in an e-mail >> ComputerWeekly.com reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the website. Please state if your answer is not for publication.
Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of leading industry analyst Dr Simon Moores of Zentelligence.
Acting globally, Zentelligence (Research) advises governments, suppliers, business and the media on the evolution, application and delivery of leading-edge technologies and specialises in the areas of eGovernment and information security.
For further information on Zentelligence and its research, presentation and analyst services visit www.zentelligence.com