Turns out that it’s surprisingly easy to game:
It appears that news sites deemed legitimate by Google News are being modified by third parties. These sites are then exploited to redirect to the spam content. It appears that the compromised sites are examining the referrer and redirecting visitors coming from Google News.
Posted on June 16, 2017 at 6:42 AM •
Verizon’s Data Brief Digest 2017 describes an attack against an unnamed university by attackers who hacked a variety of IoT devices and had them spam network targets and slow them down:
Analysis of the university firewall identified over 5,000 devices making hundreds of Domain Name Service (DNS) look-ups every 15 minutes, slowing the institution’s entire network and restricting access to the majority of internet services.
In this instance, all of the DNS requests were attempting to look up seafood restaurants—and it wasn’t because thousands of students all had an overwhelming urge to eat fish—but because devices on the network had been instructed to repeatedly carry out this request.
“We identified that this was coming from their IoT network, their vending machines and their light sensors were actually looking for seafood domains; 5,000 discreet systems and they were nearly all in the IoT infrastructure,” says Laurance Dine, managing principal of investigative response at Verizon.
The actual Verizon document doesn’t appear to be available online yet, but there is an advance version that only discusses the incident above, available here.
Posted on February 17, 2017 at 8:30 AM •
There are a lot of them.
In a world where the number of fans, friends, followers, and likers are social currency—and where the number of reposts is a measure of popularity—this kind of gaming the system is inevitable.
EDITED TO ADD (2/13): Here’s the original paper.
Posted on January 27, 2017 at 6:18 AM •
News here and here.
Other companies have been quick to deny that they did the same thing, but I generally don’t believe those carefully worded statements about what they have and haven’t done. We do know that the NSA uses bribery, coercion, threat, legal compulsion, and outright theft to get what they want. We just don’t know which one they use in which case.
EDITED TO ADD (10/7): More news. This and this, too.
EDITED TO ADD (10/17): A related story.
Posted on October 6, 2016 at 1:58 PM •
Troy Hunt has identified a new spam vector. PayPal allows someone to send someone else a $0 invoice. The spam is in the notes field. But it’s a legitimate e-mail from PayPal, so it evades many of the traditional spam filters.
Presumably it doesn’t cost anything to send a $0 invoice via PayPal. Hopefully, the company will close this loophole soon.
Posted on January 15, 2016 at 6:45 AM •
We identified three types of scams happening on Jiayuan. The first one involves advertising of escort services or illicit goods, and is very similar to traditional spam. The other two are far more interesting and specific to the online dating landscape. One type of scammers are what we call swindlers. For this scheme, the scammer starts a long-distance relationship with an emotionally vulnerable victim, and eventually asks her for money, for example to purchase the flight ticket to visit her. Needless to say, after the money has been transferred the scammer disappears. Another interesting type of scams that we identified are what we call dates for profit. In this scheme, attractive young ladies are hired by the owners of fancy restaurants. The scam then consists in having the ladies contact people on the dating site, taking them on a date at the restaurant, having the victim pay for the meal, and never arranging a second date. This scam is particularly interesting, because there are good chances that the victim will never realize that he’s been scammed—in fact, he probably had a good time.
Posted on May 7, 2015 at 12:30 PM •
There seems to be an epidemic of computer-generated nonsense academic papers.
Labbé does not know why the papers were submitted—or even if the authors were aware of them. Most of the conferences took place in China, and most of the fake papers have authors with Chinese affiliations. Labbé has emailed editors and authors named in many of the papers and related conferences but received scant replies; one editor said that he did not work as a program chair at a particular conference, even though he was named as doing so, and another author claimed his paper was submitted on purpose to test out a conference, but did not respond on follow-up. Nature has not heard anything from a few enquiries.
In this arms race between fake-paper-generator and fake-paper-detector, the advantage goes to the detector.
Posted on March 7, 2014 at 6:13 AM •
Nice profile of Brian Krebs, cybersecurity journalist:
Russian criminals routinely feed Mr. Krebs information about their rivals that they obtained through hacks. After one such episode, he began receiving daily calls from a major Russian cybercriminal seeking his files back. Mr. Krebs is writing a book about the ordeal, called “Spam Nation,” to be published by Sourcebooks this year.
In the meantime, hackers have been competing in a dangerous game of one-upmanship to see who can pull the worst prank on Mr. Krebs. They often steal his identity. One opened a $20,000 credit line in his name. Admirers have made more than $1,000 in bogus PayPal donations to his blog using hacked accounts. Others have paid his cable bill for three years with stolen credit cards.
The antics can be dangerous. In March, as Mr. Krebs was preparing to have his mother over for dinner, he opened his front door to find a police SWAT team pointing semiautomatic guns in his direction. Only after his wife returned home from the grocery store to find him handcuffed did the police realize Mr. Krebs had been the victim of “swatting.” Someone had called the police and falsely reported a murder at their home.
Four months after that, someone sent packets of heroin to Mr. Krebs’s home, then spoofed a call from his neighbor to the police. But Mr. Krebs had already been tipped off to the prank. He was tracking the fraud in a private forum—where a criminal had posted the shipment’s tracking number - and had alerted the local police and the F.B.I.
Posted on February 20, 2014 at 4:09 PM •
Coming barely weeks after my essay on the security risks from embedded systems, the Proofpoint report of a spam-sending refrigerator was just too good to be true. I was skeptical, so I didn’t blog it. Now Ars Technica has a good analysis of the report, and is also skeptical. In any case: it could happen, and sooner or later it will.
Posted on January 22, 2014 at 12:19 PM •
Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.