Latest Phishing Scam... Actually University Research

from the gotta-trick-you-to-understand dept

Lots of people are trying to research phishing scams in order to better understand them and come up with better ways to protect against them, but some folks are apparently a bit upset at research coming out of Indiana University that involved actually phishing a variety of people to con important information out of them in order to understand what kind of phishing scams work. The researchers and the university are defending the practice, saying they learned a lot from it, and it's legal to be deceptive for the purpose of research so long as the deception is no different than what a person might come across normally and the risk to the person is minimal. Still, if any of the information is eventually misused or gets leaked, it certainly could create some problems for the university (and universities are no stranger to leaking data). The university still claims that this kind of research is key to preventing phishing... but oddly, the article seems to highlight what works for phishing scams, rather than what works to stop phishing scams. So, right now, the research seems to be telling scammers how to be more effective scammers, rather than coming up with ways to stop phishing.


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    Team Tutorials, Jul 23rd, 2007 @ 9:06am

    Phishing scams work because people are stupid. No study needed.

     

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    Aaron, Jul 23rd, 2007 @ 9:31am

    But honestly officer, I was simply researching the effects of heroine for my study!

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2007 @ 5:26pm

      Re:

      I know you're just trying to be funny but there are massive research into drugs, both legal and illegal.

       

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    Steven, Jul 23rd, 2007 @ 11:12am

    In order to stop phishing...

    don't you have to know how it works?

    I understand the privacy implications here, but how is a research supposed to come up with ways to reduce phishing without knowing what how/why it works (including stupid people)?

    It seems to me that knowing what was most effective would at least be good fodder for an education campaign.

    This is like saying a security firm shouldn't be finding exploits in computer systems because that is just helping hackers.

     

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    Just Me, Jul 23rd, 2007 @ 11:30am

    Phishing

    1. You need to understand phishing to stop it. However, be carefully waht information you collect, as I'm sure the college will 'misplace' it publicly.
    2. Stupid People will never go away. Can we say why UAC in Vista can be good. Or how can people really believe that they had a rich relative who died in Nigeria?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2007 @ 12:27pm

    Well I can understand...


    but oddly, the article seems to highlight what works for phishing scams, rather than what works to stop phishing scams. So, right now, the research seems to be telling scammers how to be more effective scammers, rather than coming up with ways to stop phishing.


    They could be using the idea of exsposing the way the phishers operate. That way if the "secret" to phishing for info is no longer secret and everyone knows about it then people will hopefully wise up a bit. Kinda like someone telling how the magician made the elephant disappear.

     

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    anonymous coward, Jul 23rd, 2007 @ 1:21pm

    if taking money from morons is a crime, why is Steve Jobs still walking our streets as a free man?

    phishing isn't a victimless crime, its just that the victims are so f'ing stupid, it is really a challenge to work up any sympathy.

    i have more sympathy for drunk guys that get rolled by hookers...

     

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    Markus Jakobsson, Jul 23rd, 2007 @ 4:35pm

    why to perform phishing experiments

    At first, many people may not see the benefits of phishing experiments, and may see it as a way to plainly confirm what is already known ("people fall for phishing attacks".) That is not what is done in phishing experiments, though.

    First of all, in a well designed experiment, no credential is even harvested by the researcher. Instead, he or she instead verifies that that right credentials were input -- using the legitimate verification service. An example of how this is done, in the context of phishing eBay users, is available in

    http://www.informatics.indiana.edu/markus/papers/ethical_phishing-jakobsson_ratkiewicz_06.pdf

    This, and other experiments, are described from the ethical point of view in

    http://www.indiana.edu/~phishing/papers/finn-conducting.pdf

    Why are experiments useful, then? I think a good way to explain the needs for experiments is:

    1. To improve phishing countermeasures, knowing what works and what does not.
    2. To predict trends, knowing what the yet not exploited human vulnerabilities are.
    3. To improve security education. An example effort is www.securitycartoon.com -- this is directly influenced by phishing experiments.

    Cheers,
    Markus

     

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    rebecca, Jul 23rd, 2007 @ 6:08pm

    research on phishing

    it works because we sit around researching it rather than doing anything to stop it. We allow it and they know it.

     

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