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Targeted E-mail Attacks’ Explosion Troubling Internet Users

Targeted e-mail attacks have more dreadful effects than the normal mail attacks, reported WashingtonPost on November 14, 2008.

Targeted attacks are confined to a specific person who is looked upon as the probable victim. The messages sent to that recipient are then altered accordingly. Also, the writers of such messages take utter care while developing them, i.e. they leave only a few grammatical and spelling mistakes so that these attacks have minimum scope of being detected and hence, can trap their victim easily.

Security experts revealed that in a recent targeted attack, LinkedIn users were flooded with e-mails. The e-mail, addressing the members of LinkedIn by name and allegedly coming from support@linkedin.com, claimed to provide the requested list of contacts of exported business, but actually, double-clicking the attachment lead to the launch of malware.

In a similar attack launched in 2007, a Trojan was employed to steal the contact data. The scammers may have taken the names and business titles from the profiles on social networking sites and even from the websites of the companies by using the attacks veiled as messages sent from the IRS and Better Business Bureau. Further, recently, a Hungarian website exposed a Twitter susceptibility, which allows the user to enter a URL and view apparently personal messages.

Similar to the non-targeted spam messages, the targeted messages also ask the probable victim to open the attachment or to visit a site to launch an attack.

As per Patrik Runald, Chief Security Advisor, F-Secure, some of the earlier attacks directed the users to visit a compromised site, which attempts to download a malevolent ActiveX control. Also, in order to prevent the warnings of an unsigned ActiveX being installed, the control was signed by using a legal though stolen certificate. This is certainly another illustration of the hi-tech planning that is generally deployed in such sort of tricks.

Traditionally, spammers exploit the ppt files, Word documents or PDFs as attachments to launch the targeted attacks, especially against the prestigious organizations like government agencies, military or defense contractors and some non-profit organizations. After suffering the negligence from the cyber crooks for quite some time, the e-mail attachments have bounced back strongly as an attacking weapon.

Related article: TRUSTe Certified Websites May Still Contain Malware

» SPAMfighter News - 11/29/2008

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