Category Archives: phishing

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Cleverer and cleverer

My mom called me in a panic. "I just got this message from info AT saying that my e-mail account has been suspended."

I grumbled. Yet another notice. Our e-mail had recently been suspended because people weren't deleting their old mail. I had just spent a few days with ipowerweb tech support and Adphoto employees working out the issues. Another notice? I was going to track down and scold the errant employee.

_After_ helping my sister, who paged me to come down so that I could help her with the market study along the highway. And meeting my friends. And tracking down that planner bug. ARGH!

My mom poked her head into the Internet room. "SACHA, fix my e-mail now."

Informal tech support people the world over know that when moms use that tone of voice, everything else gets bumped down the priority list.

I trudged over to her Mac and brought up the Ipowerweb help support.

Kathy called to follow up. My mom picked up the phone and said, "Sacha's here fixing my e-mail."

"No no no, I'm just going to show you how to ask for help. Where's the message?"

"Why don't you fix it first and then you can teach me how to ask for help next time?"

"I _can't_ fix it. It's up to the Ipowerweb people. Where's the message? Okay. Hmm. Temporarily suspended... check account details..." I didn't catch any typos during my cursory glance, but it didn't feel like the other notices we'd gotten from Ipowerweb. The message felt wrong. I read further. "Adphoto Support Team... Wait a minute, we don't _have_ an Adphoto Support Team." I looked up. Sure enough, there was an attachment named "" just begging to be opened.

"So what's wrong with my e-mail?"

"Nothing," I replied, disgusted. I reread the message. Clever of them to work the first part of the domain into the message. "It's one of those fake messages with attachments."

"Wait! How do I tell which ones are real and which aren't?"

How do I explain that feeling of something being wrong? It's a blink moment.

  • Messages that ask you to look at attachments are immediately suspicious, even if they come from someone you know. Most worms fake the From: address to be someone you might now. Write the person who supposedly sent you the message and ask if that's really the intended attachment.
  • Don't click on random links, too. This could open you up to more spam or attacks that exploit browser vulnerabilities.
  • If the message says it comes from an automated system and you shouldn't bother replying, see if there's a human somewhere you can get in touch with.
  • Tech announcements shouldn't be coming from info AT, but rather an ipowerweb account. This is particularly true when they're announcements I don't remember making.
  • Make life easier for other people. If you send an attachment or link to someone else, include enough outside-the-computer information to let the other person know you're human. For example, you could give some details about the job just finished.

I've had to enable e-mail access from the PCs. I've made the employees promise not to click on strange links or attachments, and Internet access is restricted to a set of government websites and the Adphoto website itself. That should provide us with some modicum of protection because there's no way for them to establish a direct connection to the outside.

With social engineers getting cleverer and cleverer, though, will that be enough?

コンピュータがこの会社に導入されつつあります。 Computers are being introduced into this company.

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