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From: Rogan Dawes <discard () dawes za net>
Date: Wed, 12 May 2004 14:59:05 +0200

Griffiths, Ian wrote:

I'd guess that a major issue at the moment is users being fooled in to entering their details in to a nefarious web application which looks authentic but of course is not. I'm not sure if discussion of this would be beyond the scope of the list. Ian

It probably is in-scope. The question is, what can we do about it?

Perhaps start by describing the various ways that such phishing attacks are being executed, and then move on to ways to thwart them?

Method 1:

Scammer downloads a copy of the target's web site, and hosts it locally, using either a non-SSL site, or an SSL-site with a fake certificate.

Counter: Educate users to check that the "lock" exists, and that the certificate matches the bank's URL.

Method 2:

Scammer sets up a proxy pointing to the targets web site, and records sensitive information submitted, while relaying it to the target. Sends a redirect to the actual site when the sensitive info has been captured. Proxy uses own certificate to terminate SSL socket, and re-encrypts to talk to target. (e.g. WebScarab in transparent proxy mode)

Counter: Again, educate users to check the certificate details.

Method 3?


Notes regarding educating users:

Make the site name as short as possible, and as obvious as possible, to reduce confusion. Rather than "www{1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9}.encrypt.bank.com", try to use something short and simple like "secure.bank.com", and use it consistently for all servers supporting a particular application. That way there is less confusion for users, and less likelihood that a scammer will get away with using a slightly different domain name.

Also, if your bank is abc.com, don't make your internet banking URL abc-online.com, or similar. Keep it under the original domain. Less for the user to be confused about.

There is no RFC stating that all URL's have to start with "www". It is simply a convention from many years ago that helped users find your online presence. By all means name your company's main web site www.company.com. But there is no need for www.secure.company.com, and www.admin.secure.company.com, etc.

[ Apologies for my little rant ;-) ]


Rogan Dawes

*ALL* messages to discard () dawes za net will be dropped, and added
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