Posted by: David Harley | January 13, 2015

Some URL spoofing tricks

Further to the phishing post for ESET that I mentioned here, some comments I received indicated that people were particularly interested in the URL spoofing tricks I mentioned, so I expanded on some of those in an article on Phishing, Spoofing, and Looking a Glyph Horse in the Mouth for Kevin Townsend’s IT Security blog.

And that blog on CES security implications that I promised you, from Cameron Camp.

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World
ESET Senior Research Fellow


Posted by: David Harley | January 8, 2015

Recognizing phishing plus 5 hot topics at CES.

I’ve just posted an article on how to recognize phishing messages on the ESET “We Live Security” blog.

Summary: While phishing-related malware is still mostly Windows targeting, attacks that rely purely on social engineering and fake web sites might be delivered by any platform, including smartphones and tablets. The more cautious you are, the better informed you are, and the more you think before you click, the more chance you have of leaving phishing craft stranded.

Complete with two horrendous visual puns.

And Cameron Camp, my colleague at ESET North America, has kicked off a visit to Las Vegas for CES (the International Consumers Electronics Show 2015) with five hot topics. He’s promised to follow up with a deeper look at digital invasion and privacy concerns in his next post.

Summary: With nearly 160,000 lust-ridden techies, corporate denizens and a few of us security types descending on a slightly crisp wintery Las Vegas to see what all the fuss is about at CES 2015, here are a few things to keep an eye out for this year at the show.

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World
ESET Senior Research Fellow

Posted by: David Harley | January 6, 2015

Facebook Disclaimer: FB users still missing the point

A while ago, as I reported on this blog here, I published an article on ESET’s blog about Trust, Truth and Hoaxes in Social Media. The main point of the article was to address common misconceptions about Facebook’s right to control content that its subscribers post, with reference to a widely distributed but legally unhelpful disclaimer that people are posting to their wall in the hope of retaining control.

Security blogging veteran has made similar points today here: as his audience seems to be much bigger than mine, hopefully he’ll reach more Facebook users with his article. :) It’s not that this particular hoax is necessarily harmful, as such, and Facebook does deserve some of the criticism it has attracted for its ambivalent attitude towards the privacy of its users. But this disclaimer is based on at best a partial understanding of Facebook’s view towards its users’ content.

In FB’s own words:

Our philosophy is that people own their information and control who they share it with. When a person shares information on Facebook, they first need to grant Facebook a license to use that information so that we can show it to the other people they’ve asked us to share it with. Without this license, we couldn’t help people share that information.


People want full ownership and control of their information so they can turn off access to it at any time. At the same time, people also want to be able to bring the information others have shared with them—like email addresses, phone numbers, photos and so on—to other services and grant those services access to those people’s information. These two positions are at odds with each other. 

People spreading the hoax (and claims that the story is supported by reputable TV channels are clearly intended to mislead, so hoax isn’t too strong a word) are not only misunderstanding how Facebook works, but expect the disclaimer to afford them a degree of protection that it can’t possibly provide.

David Harley

Posted by: David Harley | December 12, 2014

Recognizing Facebook hoaxes

Rob Waugh’s article for ESET, Facebook hoax – how to tell instantly if a story is fake sounds as if it’s promising more than it can deliver. However, as a summary of some common types of hoax and scam, it’s worth a look. The sort of brief summary that Facecrooks often does well.

David Harley

Posted by: David Harley | December 10, 2014

A hoax is not just for Xmas

Yesterday, I put up a new post on ESET’s WeLiveSecurity site, about Trust, Truth and Hoaxes in Social Media. The main point of the article was to address common misconceptions about Facebook’s right to control content that its subscribers post, with reference to a widely distributed but legally unhelpful disclaimer that people are posting to their wall in the hope of retaining control.

A couple of other issues are also addressed there: a widely distributed hoax message claiming that Facebook is trying to stop a nativity picture being posted (not the case), misleading photographs incorrectly labelled to persuade FB users in the UK that their MPs are only interested in debating their expenses and salaries, and a more-or-less-true but outdated warning about a premium rate scam that was current several years ago.

However, another story caught my eye today, one that claims that Loggers Accidentally Cut Down World’s Oldest Tree in Amazon Forest. Well, I don’t for a moment say that deforestation (legal or otherwise) isn’t a critical issue in the Amazon (and elsewhere), or that riding roughshod over the culture and beliefs of native communities never happens. But in this instance, the story comes from World News Daily Report, whose reputation for the accuracy of its reporting is non-existent. As, apart from Hoax-Slayer’s brutal analysis, you might also gather from the tone of its About Us page and various highly probable stories also to be found on the site such as Mexican Drug Smugglers Eaten Alive By Giant Squids After Boat Sinks Near Coast Of California  and Plastic Surgeon Gives Free Nose Jobs to Homeless for Christmas. 

I’m sure there must be a use for this sort of thing, but I can’t quite think what it might be. I guess I don’t have a future as a satirist. There again, given the behaviour of some MPs, maybe there isn’t a difference between satire and real life anymore.

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World

Posted by: David Harley | October 26, 2014

This is how to do tech support

I actually saw this a few months back, but didn’t do anything with it until Kurt Wismer reminded me of it. It’s a G+ post by Chris Blasko on how he used his ‘powers’ as a sysadmin to disrupt a telemarketer. I don’t advocate vigilante action as such against nuisance callers, for a number of reasons, but I have to admit that this was a highly amusing example of social engineering. As Kurt remarks, it would have been even funnier used against a support scammer.

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World 

Posted by: David Harley | September 22, 2014

Getting into a scrape

I was amused to note that a couple of ‘readers’ of my Mac Virus blog (i.e. comment spammers) were apparently so impressed by its ‘interesting content’ that they suggested that since ‘probably you spend a lot of time writing’ (well, they got that right), they could save me a lot of time writing by steering me towards ‘an online tool that creates high quality, SEO friendly posts in minutes’.

If only it was that easy. Unfortunately (from a research point of view at any rate), the link had already disappeared when I tried to take a look at it, so I’m not absolutely sure what was actually on offer. Somehow, though, I think those discriminating people who read my finely crafted prose – not to mention those who actually pay me to write (some of my) blog articles (though Mac Virus is not in any way sponsored) – would be less than impressed if I started passing off some form of content scraping as my own work. Assuming that’s what’s on offer.

I hate to think of how much of such reconstituted material is cluttering up the web. I do know that from time to time I see my own material sitting on web sites I’ve never heard of. Which is annoying.

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World

Posted by: David Harley | September 22, 2014

Support scam discussion at Virus Bulletin

Support scam paper at Virus Bulletin 2014 is an article on the AVIEN blog noting that Malwarebytes’ Jérôme Segura is presenting a paper at the 2014 Virus Bulletin conference this week on recent developments in support scams, as previewed in a Virus Bulletin blog article by Martijn Grooten.

David Harley

Posted by: David Harley | September 17, 2014

Swotting up on SWATting

Well, this is embarrassing.

Yesterday, a blog article of mine appeared at on The economics of benevolence: mean memes’ bemoaning the fact that ‘members of the security community, an industry which is so sensitive (with some justification) to statistical legerdemain and to being misrepresented in the media (social or otherwise), being so insensitive as to spread unverified, misleading commentary when it relates to contexts outside their own fields of expertise.’ Elsewhere, with reference (pun intended) to an article on the anal preoccupation in academia with correctly cited references, I remarked:

I’m ambivalent about this. I don’t enjoy doing the sort of paper where I have to spend more time getting the references into exactly the right format – in fact, the older I get, the less I’m inclined to submit for academic conferences, for more than one reason – but there is so much misinformation and misattribution on the internet, I can’t say that rigour isn’t called for.

And then I saw an article shared on Facebook by one of my colleagues in the security industry about a gamer imprisoned for SWATting. Not swatting as in swatting flies or wasps like ‘wanton gods’ (King Lear, Act IV, Scene 1), but swatting as in tricking an emergency service into responding to a fake emergency. Unfortunately, my BS antennae were evidently taking the day off – I thought, “that’s interesting…” and shared it myself, before it was pointed out to me (thank you, Zusana) that it was a repost/retread (one among many) of a known hoax article – sorry, apparently it’s satire, not a hoax – from the National Report. In fact, the photograph seems to be of Dylan Schumaker, who is reported as having been sentenced to 25 years for killing his girlfriend’s toddler.

I’m sure there’s a good reason for the explosion in fake news stories on the 21st century internet, even if I haven’t quite worked out what it is. Nor do I know when the term satire became a synonym for hoax. But I do know that it’s getting (even) harder to distinguish fact from factoid from fiction, and even those of us who’ve been scam/spam/hoaxwatching for decades can get sucked in sometimes.

In my defence, swatting is a long-established issue and no joke at all. And yes, there are frequent reports of the online gaming fraternity (brotherly love, huh?) perpetrating it. There are instances of more hard-core criminals doing the same thing, though. Security blogger Brian Krebs has himself been victimized and has written several articles about the phenomenon since.

David Harley

Posted by: David Harley | August 14, 2014

New tech-support-related blog

“Chris Larson, for Blue Coat, reports finding a site with a fake anti-virus scan masquerading as Microsoft Security Essentials. However, instead of being prompted as with old-time fake AV to download fake AV, he was prompted to connect with a ‘live’ support specialist via LiveChat.”

Read more in Malvertising leading to fake support, posted to the AVIEN blog. Two links also added to the PC ‘TECH SUPPORT’ COLD-CALL SCAM RESOURCES page.

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World

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