Rajesh, a Bangalore-based software engineer received an e-mail from the Income Tax department saying that the department had reviewed his ‘tax fiscal payments’ for previous months and his ‘returns filed online’, and that he is eligible for a tax refund of Rs 40,135.50. However, what made him curious was the fact that he did not file his IT returns online.
The e-mail also contained a link for further details. He wasn’t convinced and checked the address of the sender; the id was same as that of the I-T department. However, when he clicked on the link he sensed he was the target of a cyber attack.
“I clicked the link, but when I saw some Brazilian ads on the website I got suspicious. Luckily, I didn’t reveal any important information,” says Rajesh.
Rajesh is one of the many tax payers in the country, who are facing such attacks at the beginning of the new financial just at the time of filing I-T returns. According to security experts, cyber criminals with an intention of stealing money and other personal information of netizens are becoming increasingly active. These perpetrators closely monitor netizens’ day to day activities on the Web and plan attacks. “Today’s phishing sites and spam e-mails are sophisticated enough to look identical to a legitimate e-mail and can easily betray you,” said a security expert.
A recent study by security solutions provider Websense says that 93 per cent of emails are spam. Of these, 2.5 per cent are phishing attacks. Another trend emerging is the attack based on search words. The search terms and trends vary based on the geography and seasons. For example, the subject lines of the recent spam mails and phising mails were Egypt revolution, Libyan unrest, and Japan tsunami among others.
Vinoo Thomas, technical product manager, McAfee Labs says: “Spammers and cyber criminals track most searched words and plan an attack accordingly. Earlier, the attacks were based depending upon festive seasons and other occasions, but now they are targeted at the individual level.”
As social media platforms such as twitter, Facebook and Orkut are gaining more acceptance, criminals also track these social networks and gather an individual’s personal information. Spear phishing is a more targeted and dangerous form of phishing attack. The e-mails are targeted at a particular user; the spear phisher thrives on familiarity by knowing the name, email address, etc.
“Criminals follow you on social networks, which gives them details about your location and background. This helps them reach you and send you spam mails,” said Anand Naik, Director, Systems Engineering, Symantec.
These days spam mails also originate with links of malicious sites, and on clicking them malicious content or codes are downloaded to the system. Spammers use URL shortening services to direct users to malicious links without their knowledge.
According to a data from Symantec, in March this year, 83.1 per cent of global spam was sent from botnets. Botnets have been and remain a destructive resource for cyber criminals. In addition to anonymous spam-sending, many botnets can be used for a number of other purposes, such as launching distributed denial of service attacks, hosting illegal website content on infected computers and installing spyware to track the activities of the users.
The study also said that India is among the top three countries for both infections for the five biggest spam-sending botnets — Rustock, Bagle, Festi, Cutwail and Lethic.