Are you a Tesco bank customer? Please verify your details. Spam meets salami.

I’m surprised I haven’t seen any phishing emails targeting hapless Tesco Bank customers following the publicity surrounding the weekend’s account raids. Give them a few more minutes.

Details on what happened are very thin on the ground. This morning on R4 Today they were saying a few thousand, but less than 10K customers had been affected. Estimates are now going up to 20K. But what’s interesting is this appears to be close to a good old fashioned salami raid, a term that the newbies in security may not even have heard of.

A salami raid got its name from thinly cut salami (a kind of foul-smelling sausage). If you cut off a thin slice, no one will notice, and if you do this to a large number of unfortunately sausages, none of their owners are likely to spot it but you’ll end up with a lot of processed meat.

Traditionally this approach was employed by computer programmers diverting pennies from a large number of accounts in to their own, but its unlikely to be the case with Tesco. The spotlight is likely to fall on people making use of the on-line banking facility to enrich themselves using other people’s logins, although I find it curious that accounts weren’t emptied while they had the chance.

Am I being phished?

Today I received an intriguing email with a Microsoft Word attachment implying I had money coming to me if I filled in a form. Yeah, right. I was just about to hit delete but I was a bit surprised the sender was addressing me as Prof. Leonhardt. It’s hardly the first time someone’s got this wrong – and to be on the safe side I can see why people might start high and work backwards through Dr. and so on, as people who are about such matters are only offended if you start too low.

But why would a botnet add the title?

On closer inspection I recognised it was a royalty payment enquiry from a publishing company that had actually done a book for about five years ago. I didn’t expect it to sell (it wasn’t that kind of book), so hadn’t thought much about out.

But I still haven’t opened the attachment. The email headers suggest it came from the publisher, but they can be forged. And this could be a clever spear-phishing attempt – after all, if you bought the book, which was largely about email security, you’d have the name of the publisher and my name – and the email address used can be found using Google.

I don’t believe I have ever been spear-phished before, so I’m feeling a bit more important than I did yesterday.

Time to fire up the sandbox!

Google Phishing Tackle

In the old days you really needed to be a bit technology-savvy to implement a good phishing scam. You need a way of sending out emails, a web site for them to link back to that wouldn’t be blacklisted and couldn’t be traced, plus the ability to create an HTML form to capture and record the results.

Bank phishing scam form created using Google Apps
Creating a phishing scam form with Google Apps is so easy

These inconvenient barriers to entry have been swept away by Google Apps.

A few days back I received a phishing scam email pointing to a form hosted by Google. Within a couple of minutes of its arrival an abuse report was filed with the Google Apps team. You’d might expect them to deal with such matters, but this still hadn’t been actioned two days later.

If you want to have a go, the process is simple. Get a Gmail account, go to Google Docs and select “Create New…Form” from on the left. You can set up a data capture form for anything you like in seconds, and call back later to see what people have entered.

Such a service is simply dangerous, and Google doesn’t appear to be taking this at all seriously. Given their “natural language technology” it shouldn’t be hard for them to spot anything looking like a phishing form so, I decided to see how easy it was and tried something blatant. This is the result:

No problem! Last time I checked the form was still there, although I haven’t asked strangers to fill it in.