Posted by: David Harley | September 18, 2015

Arachnophobia and the fear of hoaxes

Today I came across a photo of what was alleged to be an Australian Bird Eating Spider, making the human hand next to it looking pretty puny. And naturally, I was curious to see if the photograph was genuine. (Sorry, but I haven’t been able to find it again so you can check it yourself.)

I’m not a fan of spiders and make no claim to be any sort of zoologist, so I can’t say for sure that what I was looking it was really Phlogius crassipes (probably better known to its friends – if any – as the Eastern Tarantula),  but it did resemble some of the photographs Google found for me, and apparently it can grow up to 9 cm, which its leg span can extend to 23 cm, which is a little over 9 inches. Certainly bigger than my own delicate little Jimmy Shand.

However, I came across a hoax concerning Camel Spiders (or Wind Scorpions). Not actually spiders, but solifugae, though they are, like spiders, arachnids. And that led me to a whole page about Spider Hoaxes and Myths. I can’t vouch for its accuracy in every respect, but it’s certainly more fun than removing incredibly large spiders from the bath. And it might just come in handy sometime.

David Harley

Posted by: David Harley | September 18, 2015

419s: This Time it’s (not very) Personal

Disclaimer: this little article refers to two blog articles published by ESET Ireland, part of the company that provides me with a good proportion of my income. The article is not intended to promote either ESET’s products or the DoneDeal classified ads site. I’m blogging it because the first of those two articles, despite the outrageous frankly-acknowledged clickbait in the title, describes an interesting variation on an otherwise fairly standard 419 (advance fee fraud) scam email, while the second article incorporates some good generic advice. That is, advice that isn’t promotional or specific to DoneDeal.

Urban Schrott’s more recent article describes how one of his colleagues, advertising his car on DoneDeal, was contacted directly by a scammer who quasi-personalized the scam by using the car sale as a hook. In fact, the reference to the car is pretty perfunctory.


Thanks for your email concerning your offer. The offer is just a minor objective of my contacting you but am going to buy it at your selling price.’

In fact, the car had already been sold, and you may notice that the article refers to ‘the offer’ rather than ‘the car’, suggesting that the message is actually boilerplate text sent out to multiple recipients. Still, it may well attract the attention of some recipients long enough to be drawn into the scam – not only are they promised 30% of nearly 20 million dollars, but they get to sell their car/furniture/whatever.

From that point on, the message is of a type you may be familiar with, purporting to be from an American soldier needing help in transferring funds from Afghanistan. The English isn’t bad, though there are some errors ‘I have summed up courage to contact you’ that suggest that English wasn’t the writer’s first language. I particularly like the writer’s description of the misfortunes he’s experienced:

‘No compensation can make up for the risk we have taken with our lives in this hellhole, and I have been shot, wounded and survived two suicide bomb attacks by the special grace of God. ‘

Talk about guilt-tripping… Let us know next time you’re shot or bombed, Tim, and we’ll send you a bunch of grapeshot. Sorry, grapes.

Of course, if the recipient is naïve enough to fall for this tat, he or she will find that he needs to send various sums in advance so that the mythical money can be forwarded to him. There have been instances in the past where victims have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds or dollars (and more) but have (of course) never received a penny (or a cent).

Urban’s earlier article expands on DoneDeal’s own advice on scam avoidance and safety. If you’re not familiar with 419s and the other scams associated with classified ad sites, Urban’s article and DoneDeal’s advice are all worth reading.

There are, of course, many scams directly associated with buying and selling on the internet, but clearly it’s also worth looking out for other types of scam using sites like DoneDeal’s to reach potential victims, using what might at first glance seem to be a personal(ized) message.

David Harley

Posted by: David Harley | September 16, 2015

Tech support scams part umpteen

A couple of additions to the AVIEN blog, which nowadays is mostly concerned with information relating to tech support scams:

  1. A blog article re some comments that have been posted to one of my articles on the same topic for ESET. Tech Support Scams Latest
  2. Some additions to the resource page.

David Harley

Posted by: David Harley | September 2, 2015

Support Scams: Old Dog, New Teeth

[Also posted on Mac Virus]

Further to the tech support scam issues with OS X and iOS that I flagged here, here and here, I recently included some information on those and many other recent support scam trends in an article for ESET on Support scams, malware and mindgames without frontiers. The article concerns the expansion of tech support scamming across platforms and into languages other than English, as well as scam activity associated with real malware.

Unfortunately, there’s life in this rabid old dog yet. I’m referring to the scamming, not me. This is an attack whose scope, evolution and impact is still underestimated.

David Harley

Posted by: David Harley | July 17, 2015

iOS and support scams addendum

Here’s a further Mac Virus article in the light of an F-Secure article explaining that pop-up blocking in Safari doesn’t fix the iOS Support Scams issue I added yesterday: A bit more on iOS support scams.

Added to the AVIEN resources page, along with some links.

David Harley

Posted by: David Harley | July 16, 2015

iOS support scams

Here’s an extract from another Mac Virus article – iOS Support Scams – on tech support scams, this time targeting iOS users:

A new blog by Graham Cluley for Intego actually has some points in common with my most recent blog here (which also involved pop-ups misused by support scammers, particularly in the context of Safari). However, Graham’s article is about iOS, whereas mine related to questions asked regarding OS X and Safari (citing advice from Thomas Reed that also addressed other browsers).

I’ve added it to the AVIEN resources page, of course.

David Harley

Posted by: David Harley | July 14, 2015

Support scams and Mac pop-ups

Out of my own blogs, this one tends to the one where I put my scam-related articles, as well as stuff relating to hoaxes and chain letters. However, since the issue I’m flagging here relates to a Mac version of the support scam, I’ve blogged about it on Mac Virus:

Here’s an excerpt that explains a little more:

Thomas Reed’s The Safe Mac site features generally sound commentary and advice page and has an article here that specifically addresses pop-up scam ‘virus alerts’ targeting Mac users, and if you’re seeing something like this, his advice on how to get rid of a scam message may work for you. I’ve had a few conversations with Thomas regarding malware in the past couple of years, and he seems pretty well-informed. There are also lots of comments worth reading from other victims, and Thomas is pretty good at responding to them.

I’ve included it on the AVIEN resource page PC ‘Tech Support’ Cold-Call Scam Resources even though it doesn’t relate directly to Windows PCs.

David Harley

Posted by: David Harley | June 26, 2015

Some phone scam statistics

I’ve just added a link to one of my articles for ESET to the AVIEN scam resources page. The article is not primarily about support scams (unlikely nearly all the other links on that page), but looks at interesting data from reports by the Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book for January-December 2014 and Pindrop Security – The State of Phone Fraud 2014-2015: a Global, Cross-Industry Threat.

I don’t recommend (see my article) that you take the statistics as gospel, but interesting trends and commentary.

It occurs to me that maybe I should widen the scope of that page, given the range of phone scams that hit my radar nowadays.

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World

Posted by: David Harley | June 19, 2015

Webmail: how password recovery can be abused

short video by Symantec demonstrates how a password recovery mechanism for webmail services can be abused if an attacker knows your cell phone number and you’ve registered the phone for password recovery/reset: basically, the attacker can click on the ‘I forgot my password’ link so that a verification code is sent to that phone number by SMS. While the attacker doesn’t see the text from the provider directly, he’s then able to text the potential victim, pretending to be the provider, and requiring the victim to return the code in order to counter unusual or unauthorized activity on the account. If the victim does so, his account is wide open to compromise.

A recent blog by Graham Cluley summarizes the scam rather well, and John Leyden’s article for the Register covers much the same ground. However, there’s more to be said on this type of attack (including a potential email variation), and I intend to do just that in an article due to be published on Monday by Infosecurity Magazine. (Now published here.)

David Harley

Posted by: David Harley | May 4, 2015

Nepal Earthquake Scams

Every time there’s a major disaster, the media and the security industry point out the risk that scammers and other criminals will make use of it to spread scam messages and malware. Unfortunately, they’re right more often than not, and a number of scammers have taken advantage of the Nepal earthquake, as I reported in a blog for AVIEN:

Nepal earthquake scam: out for a duck…

I also took the opportunity to add a couple of older links to AVIEN’s PC tech support scam resources page.

David Harley

Older Posts »



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.