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Jump to: navigation, search Not to be confused with fishing, pish, or Phish.
An example of a phishing e-mail, disguised as an official e-mail from a (fictional) bank. The sender is attempting to trick the recipient into revealing confidential information by "confirming" it at the phisher's website. Note the misspelling of the words received and discrepancy. Such mistakes are common in most phishing emails. Also note that although the URL of the bank's webpage appears to be legitimate, it actually links to the phisher's webpage. In the field of computer security, phishing is the criminally fraudulent process of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. Communications purporting to be from popular social web sites, auction sites, online payment processors or IT administrators are commonly used to lure the unsuspecting public. Phishing is typically carried out by e-mail or instant messaging, and it often directs users to enter details at a fake website whose look and feel are almost identical to the legitimate one. Even when using server authentication, it may require tremendous skill to detect that the website is fake. Phishing is an example of social engineering techniques used to fool users, and exploits the poor usability of current web security technologies. Attempts to deal with the growing number of reported phishing incidents include legislation, user training, public awareness, and technical security measures. A phishing technique was described in detail in 1987, and the first recorded use of the term "phishing" was made in 1996. The term is a variant of fishing, probably influenced by phreaking, and alludes to baits used to "catch" financial information and passwords.
America-online Usenet newsgroup on January 2. . 1996.2.2.  Early phishing on AOL Phishing on AOL was closely associated with the warez community that exchanged pirated software and the hacking scene that perpetrated credit card fraud and other online crimes.5 Phone phishing o 2.online-service. The first recorded mention of the term "phishing" is on the alt. After AOL brought in measures in late 1995 to prevent using fake.2.1 Early phishing on AOL o 1.5 Monitoring and takedown o 4.4 Website forgery o 2.2 Technical responses 4.1 Recent phishing attempts o 2.2.[hide] • • • • • • • 1 History and current status of phishing o 1.1 Social responses o 4. in a paper and presentation delivered to the International HP Users Group. Interex.1.2.3 Filter evasion o 2.3 Augmenting password logins 4.2.2 Transition from AOL to financial institutions 2 Phishing techniques o 2.3 Legal responses 5 See also 6 References 7 External links  History and current status of phishing A phishing technique was described in detail in 1987. although the term may have appeared earlier in the print edition of the hacker magazine 2600.4 Eliminating phishing mail 4.2 Browsers alerting users to fraudulent websites 4.6 Other techniques 3 Damage caused by phishing 4 Anti-phishing o 4.1 Helping to identify legitimate websites 4.2 Link manipulation o 2.1 Fundamental flaws in the security model of secure browsing 4.
the attacker could access and use the victim's account for fraudulent purposes or spamming.) After 1997. The shutting down of the warez scene on AOL caused most phishers to leave the service.  Transition from AOL to financial institutions The capture of AOL account information may have led phishers to misuse credit card information. Once the victim had revealed the password. but can now be seen as early experiments towards more fruitful attacks against mainstream banks.algorithmically generated credit card numbers to open accounts. The first known direct attempt against a payment system affected E-gold in June 2001. AOL simultaneously developed a system to promptly deactivate accounts involved in phishing.reported to AOL TOS department for disciplinary action. In order to lure the victim into giving up sensitive information the message might include imperatives like "verify your account" or "confirm billing information". A phisher might pose as an AOL staff member and send an instant message to a potential victim. Both were viewed at the time as failures.  Phishing techniques  Recent phishing attempts . AOL crackers resorted to phishing for legitimate accounts and exploiting AOL. and many phishers—often young teens—grew out of the habit. A user using both an AIM account and an AOL account from an ISP simultaneously could phish AOL members with relative impunity as internet AIM accounts could be used by non-AOL internet members and could not be actioned (ie. and to the realization that attacks against online payment systems were feasible. though even this didn't prevent some people from giving away their passwords and personal information if they read and believed the IM first. which were assembled into finished attacks. which was followed up by a "post-9/11 id check" shortly after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Phishing became so prevalent on AOL that they added a line on all instant messages stating: "no one working at AOL will ask for your password or billing information". Both phishing and warezing on AOL generally required custom-written programs. AOL's policy enforcement with respect to phishing and warez became stricter and forced pirated software off AOL servers. phishing was recognized as a fully industrialized part of the economy of crime: specializations emerged on a global scale that provided components for cash. often before the victims could respond. asking him to reveal his password. such as AOHell. By 2004.
Such sites often provide specific details about the particular messages. Several recent phishing attacks have been directed specifically at senior executives and other high profile targets within businesses. since the personal details in such sites can be used in identity theft.3 million customers' social security numbers.A chart showing the increase in phishing reports from October 2004 to June 2005 Phishers are targeting the customers of banks and online payment services. dates of birth. Social networking sites are now a prime target of phishing. taxpayers. Almost half of phishing thefts in 2006 were committed by groups operating through the Russian Business Network based in St. Some people are being victim to a Facebook Scam. addresses. which removes speed caps on downloads. and target bogus e-mails accordingly.  There are anti-phishing websites which publish exact messages that have been recently circulating the internet.S. Targeted versions of phishing have been termed spear phishing. waits on downloads. While the first such examples were sent indiscriminately in the expectation that some would be received by customers of a given bank or service. Attackers who broke into TD Ameritrade's database (containing all 6. and the term whaling has been coined for these kinds of attacks. account numbers and email addresses as well as their names. the link being hosted by T35 Web Hosting and people are losing their accounts.  Experiments show a success rate of over 70% for phishing attacks on social networks. in late 2006 a computer worm took over pages on MySpace and altered links to direct surfers to websites designed to steal login details. Petersburg. so they launched a follow-up spear phishing attack. recent research has shown that phishers may in principle be able to determine which banks potential victims use. have been used to glean sensitive data from U.  The RapidShare file sharing site has been targeted by phishing to obtain a premium account. E-mails.  Link manipulation . supposedly from the Internal Revenue Service. and cooldown times between downloads. such as FraudWatch International and Millersmiles. phone numbers and trading activity) also wanted the account usernames and passwords. auto-removal of uploads.
then to place a popup window requesting credentials on top of the website in a way that it appears the bank is requesting this sensitive information. phishers have begun to use Flash-based websites. It is estimated that between May 2004 and May 2005.  Damage caused by phishing The damage caused by phishing ranges from denial of access to e-mail to substantial financial loss. prompts told users to enter their account numbers and PIN.2m in 2005. In the United Kingdom losses from web banking fraud—mostly from phishing —almost doubled to £23. The stance adopted by the UK banking body APACS is that "customers must also take sensible precautions . Messages that claimed to be from a bank told users to dial a phone number regarding problems with their bank accounts.  Phone phishing Not all phishing attacks require a fake website.2 million computer users in the United States suffered losses caused by phishing. In 2007 phishing attacks escalated. although losses to the tune of €11. United States businesses lose an estimated US$2 billion per year as their clients become victims. Microsoft claims these estimates are grossly exaggerated and puts the annual phishing loss in the US at $60 million. approximately 1. To avoid anti-phishing techniques that scan websites for phishing-related text. In reality. Just such a flaw was used in 2006 against PayPal. discovered by RSA Security. 3.  Other techniques Another attack used successfully is to forward the client to a bank's legitimate website. but hide the text in a multimedia object. the link to the website is crafted to carry out the attack. the Bank of Ireland initially refused to cover losses suffered by its customers (and it still insists that its policy is not to do so). provides a simple-to-use interface that allows a phisher to convincingly reproduce websites and capture log-in details entered at the fake site.2 billion in the 12 months ending in August 2007.everything from the web address to the security certificates appears correct." Similarly. Vishing (voice phishing) sometimes uses fake caller-ID data to give the appearance that calls come from a trusted organization. A Universal Man-in-the-middle Phishing Kit.300 were made good.2m in 2004. from £12. These look much like the real website. while 1 in 20 computer users claimed to have lost out to phishing in 2005. Once the phone number (owned by the phisher.6 million adults lost US $ 3. making it very difficult to spot without specialist knowledge. and provided by a Voice over IP service) was dialed. so that they are not vulnerable to the criminal. when the first spate of phishing attacks hit the Irish Republic's banking sector in September 2006... totaling approximately US$929 million. .
has suggested that conventional phishing techniques could become obsolete in the future as people are increasingly aware of the social engineering techniques used by phishers. it is a sensible precaution to contact the company from which the e-mail apparently originates to check that the e-mail is legitimate. and by avoiding dangerous ones. NY. People can take steps to avoid phishing attempts by slightly modifying their browsing habits. Anti-phishing There are several different techniques to combat phishing. One newer phishing tactic. Unfortunately. E-mails from banks and credit card companies often include partial account numbers. including legislation and technology created specifically to protect against phishing. for example PayPal.  Social responses One strategy for combating phishing is to train people to recognize phishing attempts. an industry and law enforcement association. When contacted about an account needing to be "verified" (or any other topic used by phishers). so if an e-mail addresses the recipient in a generic fashion ("Dear PayPal customer") it is likely to be an attempt at phishing. another recent study concluded in part that the presence of personal information does not significantly affect the success rate of phishing attacks. Furthermore. especially where training provides direct feedback. In a June 2004 experiment with spear phishing. The Anti-Phishing Working Group. however. rather than trusting any hyperlinks in the suspected phishing message. always address their customers by their username in e-mails. However. Phishing attempts in early 2006. 80% of 500 West Point cadets who were sent a fake e-mail were tricked into revealing personal information. the address that the individual knows is the company's genuine website can be typed into the address bar of the browser. People can be trained to have their suspicion aroused if the message does not contain any specific personal information. has been harnessed to train individuals at various locations. used personalized information. Some companies. known as spear phishing. which uses phishing e-mails targeted at a specific company. even well-known players are known to incite users to . Nearly all legitimate e-mail messages from companies to their customers contain an item of information that is not readily available to phishers. Education can be effective. They predict that pharming and other uses of malware will become more common tools for stealing information. which suggests that most people do not pay attention to such details. Everyone can help educate the public by encouraging safe practices. Alternatively. and to deal with them. which makes it unsafe to assume that the presence of personal information alone guarantees that a message is legitimate. including United States Military Academy at West Point. recent research has shown that the public do not typically distinguish between the first few digits and the last few digits of an account number—a significant problem since the first few digits are often the same for all clients of a financial institution.
 Unfortunately. The user is expected to confirm that the domain name in the browser's URL bar was in fact where they intended to go. In theory it should be possible for the SSL authentication to be used to confirm the site to the user.  Technical responses Anti-phishing measures have been implemented as features embedded in browsers. as extensions or toolbars for browsers. adding to the opportunity for confusion. e. meaning that SSL with strong cryptography is used for server authentication. and other certificates with a white display. All three are necessary for authentication. such as email. and as part of website login procedures. by requesting their users to reveal their passwords for third party services. and indicating which authority says it is this site. Please do not remove this message until the dispute is resolved.  Helping to identify legitimate websites This section may contain previously unpublished synthesis of published material that conveys ideas not attributable to the original sources. (December 2008) The neutrality of this section is disputed. Which Site. But in practice. URLs can be too complex to be easily parsed. so that the authentication becomes meaningless. Mozilla fielded a yellow URL bar in 2005 as a better indication of the secure connection. The standard display for secure browsing from the mid-1990s to mid-2000s was the padlock. this is easy to trick.hazardous behaviour. many ecommerce sites will change the domain names within their overall set of websites. which replaced certain high-value certificates with a green display. Please see the discussion on the talk page. indicating which site the user is connected to. See the talk page for details. The superficial flaw is that the browser's security user interface (UI) is insufficient to deal with today's strong threats.g. Secure Connection. this innovation was then reversed due to the EV certificates. The following are some of the main approaches to the problem. . (December 2008) Most websites targeted for phishing are secure websites. There are three parts to secure authentication using TLS and certificates: indicating that the connection is in authenticated mode. A condition for meaningful server authentication is to have a server identifier that is meaningful to the user. Simply displaying the domain name for the visited website as some anti-phishing toolbars do is not sufficient. where the website's URL is used as identifier. and this was SSL v2's design requirement and the meta of secure browsing. which is easily missed by the user. and need to be confirmed by/to the user. Users often do not know or recognise the URL of the legitimate sites they intend to connect to.
This is the current standard practice. and allows the user to learn the handful of CAs that she is likely to come into contact within her country and her sector. leaving the user to fend for himself with all other certificates. or it could be that no care is taken at all. as far as the user is concerned. Who is the Authority. and the user should be familiar with. browser vendors have chosen to limit this prominent display only to EV certificates. As the CA is only charged with protecting its own customers.  Fundamental flaws in the security model of secure browsing . If the site is not recognised. the issuing CA is displayed. The browser vendors take on this responsibility by controlling a root list of acceptable CAs. however.An alternate approach is the petname extension for Firefox which lets users type in their own labels for websites. and is unfamiliar with high-value ecommerce sites. The use of brand is also critical to providing the CA with an incentive to improve their checking. This solution was first put into practice in early IE7 versions. resulting in a fallback to the simplest level above: the browser is the user's authority. browsers now typically display the organisation's name in green. Unfortunately. This presents the CA as a brand. With the advent of EV certificates. as the user will learn the brand and demand good checking for high-value sites. The solution to this is that the browser should show. This was an isolated case. Certificate Manufacturing is the name given to low-value certificates that are delivered on a credit card and an email confirmation. no authority is stated. Hence. This could be because the CA is in another part of the world. a highvalue site may be easily spoofed by a valid certificate provided by another CA. and not the customers of other CAs. which is much more visible and is hopefully more consistent with the user's expectations. the name of the authority. The problem with this is that not all certification authorities (CAs) employ equally good nor applicable checking. Some suggest that a graphical image selected by the user is better than a petname.  Nor do all CAs subscribe to the same model and concept that certificates are only about authenticating ecommerce organisations. At the simplest level. regardless of attempts by browser vendors to control the quality. In that display. There is resistance to CAs being branded on the chrome. when displaying EV certificates. This represents user-centric identity management of server identities. this flaw is inherent in the model. The browser needs to state who the authority is that makes the claim of who the user is connected to. both of these are easily perverted by fraudsters. and therefore the browser is the authority. then the software may either warn the user or block the site outright. so they can later recognize when they have returned to the site.
ecommerce owners. but it has been shown to be ignored by an experienced user in a real case of MITM. expiry). But the group did not start out in an open fashion. regulators (e. Another underlying factor is the lack of support for virtual hosting. CA. etc. browser vendor. Lack of interest..g. the security display lost out in the "real estate wars" of the early browsers. If a certificate had an error in it (mismatched domain name. Matters improved slightly with the CAB Forum. and were not down-graded. auditor. this message does not reach the UI groups.Experiments to improve the security UI have resulted in benefits. There is a lack of communication between different groups that are committed to the security model. The original design of Netscape's browser included a prominent display of the name of the site and the CA's name. not seeing it as a security fix but instead a new feature. In practice. As the reason was generally misconfiguration. end-users. ecommerce site. CAB forum is not open. and security standards committees. auditors and CAs. as well as a lack of parity between the participants. The specific causes are a lack of support for Server Name Indication in TLS webservers. Click-thru syndrome. as that group includes browser vendors. then the browser would commonly launch a popup to warn the user. The security model for secure browser includes many participants: user. all participants look to the others as the source of the failures leading to phishing. hence the local fixes are not prioritised. However. E. as the vast majority of warnings will be for misconfigurations not real MITMs. resulting in Clickthru syndrome. Users are now highly experienced in not checking security information at all. although the understanding of authentication is strong at the protocol level of the IETF committees. developers. warnings to poorly configured sites continued. the users learned to bypass the warnings. The result is that the use of authentication is too rare to be anything but a special case..g. Lateral communications. This has caused a general lack of knowledge and resources in authentication within TLS. and does not include representation from small CAs. Webserver vendors do not prioritise the Server Name Indication (TLS/SNI) fix. Firefox 3 has a 4-click process for adding an exception. it is hard to see how click-thru syndrome will ever be avoided. webserver vendor. Even today. Even today. The underlying causes for the failure of the SSL authentication to be employed properly in secure browsing are many and intertwined. Because secure browsing was put into place before any threat was evident. . Security before threat. and the result suffered from commercial interests of the first players. and the expense and inconvenience of acquiring certificates. For example. but these were dropped in the first release. and now. FDIC). which in turn has meant that the attempts by browser vendors to upgrade their security UIs have been slow and lacklustre. but have also exposed fundamental flaws in the security model. users are accustomed to treat all warnings with the same disdain.
several site owners have altered the images to send a message to the visitor that a site may be fraudulent. Venerable CA model.  Augmenting password logins The Bank of America's website is one of several that ask users to select a personal image. According to a report by Mozilla in late 2006. Users of the bank's online services are instructed to enter a password only when they see the image they selected. Microsoft's IE7 browser. and display this user-selected image with any forms that request a password.Standards gridlock. However.1 uses live blacklists from PhishTank and GeoTrust. or clash with the standards. Control mechanisms employed by the browser vendors over the CAs have not been substantially updated. a recent study suggests few users refrain from entering their password when images are absent. An approach introduced in mid-2006 involves switching to a special DNS service that filters out known phishing domains: this will work with any browser. this feature (like other forms of . Audit processes are in great need of updating. and instead send a warning image.[citation needed Browsers alerting users to fraudulent websites Another popular approach to fighting phishing is to maintain a list of known phishing sites and to check websites against the list. Safari 3. and established a good benchmark. Firefox 2 used Google anti-phishing software. which has raised concerns about privacy. Opera 9. these have not been adopted because they are not standard. Vendors commit to standards. but did not push for any substantial changes to be made. The control and quality process over CAs is insufficiently tuned to the protection of users and the addressing of actual and current threats.0. Mozilla Firefox 2. and Opera all contain this type of anti-phishing measure. To mitigate the problem of phishing sites impersonating a victim site by embedding its images (such as logos). The recent EV Guidelines documented the current model in greater detail. In addition.2. as well as live whitelists from GeoTrust. Threat models can re-invent themselves in around a month. which results in an outsourcing effect when it comes to security. Although there have been many and good experiments in improving the security UI. Some implementations of this approach send the visited URLs to a central service to be checked. The image may be moved to a new filename and the original permanently replaced. or a server can detect that the image was not requested as part of normal browsing. and is similar in principle to using a hosts file to block web adverts. Security standards take around 10 years to adjust. Firefox 2 was found to be more effective than Internet Explorer 7 at detecting fraudulent sites in a study by an independent software testing company. the threat model has.
 Other countries have followed this lead by tracing and arresting phishers. netting themselves 100 million yen ($870. the U. which in two years stole between US$18 million and US$37 million. and Citibank in 2006. 2004. The scheme also relies on a mutual authentication protocol.S. These approaches rely on machine learning and natural language processing approaches to classify phishing e-mails.000 USD). The arrests continued in 2006 with the FBI Operation Cardkeeper detaining a gang of sixteen in the U. This bill. allegedly created a webpage designed to look like the America Online website. 2005.  Monitoring and takedown Several companies offer banks and other organizations likely to suffer from phishing scams round-the-clock services to monitor. if it had been enacted into law. the image itself is shared only between the user and the browser.  Legal responses On January 26. which makes it less vulnerable to attacks that affect user-only authentication schemes.two-factor authentication) is susceptible to other attacks. and not between the user and the website. Valdir Paulo de Almeida.S. A similar system. UK authorities jailed two men in June 2005 for their role in a phishing scam. which targeted notorious "carder" websites. in which an automatically-generated “Identity Cue” consisting of a colored word within a colored box is displayed to each website user. Federal Trade Commission filed the first lawsuit against a suspected phisher. Individuals can contribute by reporting phishing to both volunteer and industry groups. would have subjected criminals who created fake web sites and sent bogus e-mails in order to defraud . Senator Patrick Leahy introduced the Anti-Phishing Act of 2005 in Congress on March 1. Federal Trade Commission. Individuals can also contribute by reporting phone phishing attempts to Phone Phishing. a Californian teenager. however. Secret Service Operation Firewall. such as those suffered by Scandinavian bank Nordea in late 2005. in a case connected to the U. and Europe. In the United States. and used it to steal credit card information.  Eliminating phishing mail Specialized spam filters can reduce the number of phishing e-mails that reach their addressees' inboxes. is in use at other financial institutions.S. was arrested in Brazil for leading one of the largest phishing crime rings. analyze and assist in shutting down phishing websites. The defendant. Security skins are a related technique that involves overlaying a user-selected image onto the login form as a visual cue that the form is legitimate. A phishing kingpin. In 2006 eight people were arrested by Japanese police on suspicion of phishing fraud by creating bogus Yahoo Japan Web sites. Unlike the website-based image schemes. such as PhishTank.
Jeffrey Brett Goodin of California became the first defendant convicted by a jury under the provisions of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. the unauthorized use of credit cards. Microsoft filed 117 federal lawsuits in the U. AOL reinforced its efforts against phishing in early 2006 with three lawsuits seeking a total of $18 million USD under the 2005 amendments to the Virginia Computer Crimes Act. Facing a possible 101 years in prison for the CAN-SPAM violation and ten other counts including wire fraud. in March 2006. while posing as AOL's billing department. which introduces a general offence of fraud that can carry up to a ten year prison sentence. Companies have also joined the effort to crack down on phishing. The UK strengthened its legal arsenal against phishing with the Fraud Act 2006. In January 2007.consumers to fines of up to $250. including phishing.  See also • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Advanced Persistent Threat Anti-phishing software Computer hacking Confidence trick E-mail spoofing FBI Internet fraud Pharming SMiShing Social engineering Spy-phishing Vishing In-session phishing White collar crime . he was sentenced to serve 70 months. On March 31. Goodin had been in custody since failing to appear for an earlier court hearing and began serving his prison term immediately. and the misuse of AOL's trademark. followed by the commencement. 2005. and prohibits the development or possession of phishing kits with intent to commit fraud. The lawsuits accuse "John Doe" defendants of obtaining passwords and confidential information. which prompted customers to submit personal and credit card information.S. and Earthlink has joined in by helping to identify six men subsequently charged with phishing fraud in Connecticut. March 2005 also saw a partnership between Microsoft and the Australian government teaching law enforcement officials how to combat various cyber crimes. Microsoft announced a planned further 100 lawsuits outside the U.000 and prison terms of up to five years. as of November 2006. He was found guilty of sending thousands of e-mails to America Online users. District Court for the Western District of Washington.S. of 129 lawsuits mixing criminal and civil actions.
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