Date
17 December 2017
A typical phishing attack may involve the mass distribution of malicious email messages, links, webpages and branding that appear to come from banks, credit card companies or third-party payment facilitators. Photo: HKEJ
A typical phishing attack may involve the mass distribution of malicious email messages, links, webpages and branding that appear to come from banks, credit card companies or third-party payment facilitators. Photo: HKEJ

Cyber bait lures big catches on phishing high seas

If you believe the Ministry of Public Security’s Internet Security and Crime Bureau, there’s roughly one malicious website for every three people on the mainland — more than 400 million in all. The sites are dangerous waters in a sea of rampant fraud that has led to a lack of trust among the general public. China Central Television’s Economy 30 Minutes highlighted two cases of online theft that fleeced the victims of thousands of yuan.

The first involved a factory owner chatting via QQ video and instant messaging tools with his son overseas. The father was using the voice and video function but the son made some excuse to not speak and instead replied by typed message. The son said he had an emergency and asked the father to remit 120,000 yuan (US$19,175), which the father duly did. Only the footage of the son had been secretly prerecorded by a third party and the money disappeared into the pocket of the scammer.

What the father thought was live footage of his son was part of an elaborate fraud that began with a Trojan horse virus. Using spam email, the scammer lures a user to a malicious website which then implants the virus in the user’s computer and steals QQ passwords. In the father-son case, having stolen the son’s QQ password, the crook then gained control of the IM application and could even turn on the webcam to secretly record footage of the son using the computer.

While pretending to be the son, the scammer streamed the recorded footage to deceive the father during the QQ exchange. To avoid speaking directly, the scammer fobbed the father off with excuses, saying his microphone was broken or he had a sore throat.

The case is just one of many examples of cyber fraud. In another instance, a young woman who bought a mug from a genuine Tmall vendor got a phone call after she paid the money via Alipay. The caller said he was the Tmall vendor and told her that the transaction was unsuccessful and he would arrange a refund. He later sent a URL link, which redirected the woman to the Alipay webpage. She inputted her information, including her name, ID card number and credit card details as per the instructions on the page. An hour later the bank called to tell her that someone had run up a 10,000 yuan bill on her credit card.

Police officers investigating the case found that the webpage was a very convincing clone of the real Alipay website, highlighting the need to verify webpage addresses before keying in personal information.

Analysts say the Tmall case is a typical phishing attack, which involves the mass distribution of malicious email messages, links, webpages and branding that appear to come from banks, credit card companies or third-party payment facilitators. These fraudulent links and messages are designed to fool the recipients into divulging personal authentication data.

The phishers can also use a victim’s personal information to create fake accounts for money laundering and other crimes and ruin the victim’s credit history. 

– Contact the writer at [email protected]

SK

EJ Insight writer

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