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This Defense Contractor Is Repeatedly Spear-Phishing 68, 000 Innocent People
From: InfoSec News <alerts () infosecnews org>
Date: Thu, 4 Apr 2013 00:41:14 -0500 (CDT)


By Brian Fung
National Journal
April 3, 2013

One company with deep Washington connections is running a huge online scam. It involves tens of thousands of victims. And it's completely legal.

The business in question is Northrop Grumman, one of the country's biggest defense firms. But before crying foul, know this: What the company's doing is actually a good thing. No real damage is being done, and the only individuals affected are Northrop employees.

In fact, the entire operation is itself a fraud. Cybersecurity pros within the company are posing as outside criminals looking to breach the firm's defenses. By sending fake e-mails to employees that encourage them to click on malicious attachments or links—a type of attack known as phishing or spear phishing—the firm's tech team is trying to understand how vulnerable Northrop's networks are from real attacks. The exercise is also meant to teach employees how to identify and report actual attempts at intrusion.

Here's how it works: Company security experts blast out a spoof e-mail to the entire company that looks like it's coming from outside the network. In the most recent example, 68,000 of Northrop Grumman's 70,000 employees got an e-mail telling them they'd made an error on their tax returns. Some gullible Northrop workers clicked the "malicious" link. Others recognized the e-mail for the threat it was, and deleted it. But some employees reported the incident back to the staffers who sent the test attacks.


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