Online sharing helps hackers sharpen 'spears'

Jul 29, 2013
Sharing on social media helps hackers sharpen "spear phishing" attacks they use to trick their way into computers, security experts said Monday.

Sharing on social media helps hackers sharpen "spear phishing" attacks they use to trick their way into computers, security experts said Monday.

Spear phishing refers to individualizing deceptive messages sent to people in order to trick them into clicking on links or opening files booby-trapped with viruses.

Public posts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Foursquare and other online venues give hackers fodder to mimic the way people write and the words they use, said Ulisses Albuquerque of the Trustwave.

"I don't think people have any idea what kind of insight that gives to a potential hacker," Albuquerque told AFP.

He and colleague Joaquim Espinhara are at a premier Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas this week to present a talk titled "Using Online Activity As Digital Fingerprints To Create A Better Spear Phisher."

The Trustware security consultants created a software tool that "fingerprints" the way people communicate by analyzing online posts.

The tool scrutinizes posts at social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to ascertain writing styles, right down to hashtags added to indicate subjects of online posts.

A hacker unable to break into a company's computer network could write a convincing email pretending to be from a friend of an employee and include an attachment or link that, once clicked, unleashes malicious code.

"Say a CEO has a Twitter or LinkedIn account and I am able to see those posts," Albuquerque said.

"Then I could produce content that looks like it came from him and send it to his staff, who will be less suspicious of clicking a link."

He said the Trustwave-developed tool was not designed to extrapolate insights into people's conduct or personalities, but that such observations could be made if desired.

"Absolutely, you can show what the people posting are like," Albuquerque said.

The tool provides "spear phishers" with outlines for creating messages likely to hook prey.

It is intended for "ethical hackers" such as security professionals working with companies or organizations to find and patch weak spots in computer network defenses, according to Albuquerque.

It can also be used to help prove when posts claiming to be written by someone are bogus, he said.

Explore further: Digital dilemma: How will US respond to Sony hack?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Facebook introduces hashtags

Jun 12, 2013

Facebook is introducing hashtags, the number signs used on Twitter, Instagram and other services to identify topics being discussed and allow users to search for them.

Facebook to use Twitter hashtag style

Mar 14, 2013

Facebook is preparing to take on Twitter by adopting the messaging service's iconic hashtag symbol, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

Recommended for you

Digital dilemma: How will US respond to Sony hack?

Dec 18, 2014

The detective work blaming North Korea for the Sony hacker break-in appears so far to be largely circumstantial, The Associated Press has learned. The dramatic conclusion of a Korean role is based on subtle ...

UN General Assembly OKs digital privacy resolution

Dec 18, 2014

The U.N. General Assembly has approved a resolution demanding better digital privacy protections for people around the world, another response to Edward Snowden's revelations about U.S. government spying.

Online privacy to remain thorny issue: survey

Dec 18, 2014

Online privacy will remain a thorny issue over the next decade, without a widely accepted system that balances user rights and personal data collection, a survey of experts showed Thursday.

Spain: Google News vanishes amid 'Google Tax' spat

Dec 16, 2014

Google on Tuesday followed through with a pledge to shut down Google News in Spain in reaction to a Spanish law requiring news publishers to receive payment for content even if they are willing to give it away.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

VendicarE
1 / 5 (1) Jul 30, 2013
Isn't online sharing (digital communication) what digital communication is all about?

In further news... Chemicals help drugs do their work.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.