In a previous post I mentioned that phishing and spoofing were still very much in the mainstream. There are many tricks that scammers use in order to convince the unsuspecting Internet user to part with their financial details. One such trick is to send fake e-mails inviting users to click on an “eCard”. In reality, clicking on the eCard link typically links to file that can be run on the victim’s computer – even though today’s modern browsers offer many levels of warning, users frequently click on yes or OK when asked “are you really sure?”
Most eCards are trojan horses – they lay in wait watching for useful information such as credit card details, passwords, etc. to be typed into reputable web-sites. They then capture that information and, more often than not, attempt to transmit it to a central source that is capable of making the most of stolen credit card information.
Here’s an example:
As noted in my previous posting, it’s always worth verifying the destination of any links found in e-mails (there are some good comments on that post, with tips worth heeding). However, link aside, the text of the e-mail has a few other clues that suggest it might not be authentic. Look for problems with grammar, spelling mistakes, incorrect spacing, etc. I’ve highlighted a couple in the e-mail above. Also look out for “odd” e-mail addresses that are out of character, e.g. Hallmark would never use a personal e-mail address (other card vendors are available!)
If you are feeling even more adventurous, you could take a look at the message itself. In Microsoft Outlook if you right click on an e-mail in the Inbox view, choose Message Options and you’ll see something similar to the text below:
Delivery-date: Mon, 13 Oct 2008 15:30:19 +0100
Received: from dynamic-123-123.natpool.uc.edu ([126.96.36.199])
by pc1.yourmailhost.com with esmtp (Exim 4.69)
for firstname.lastname@example.org; Mon, 13 Oct 2008 15:30:19 +0100
Date: Mon, 13 Oct 2008 12:42:56 +0000
User-Agent: Thunderbird 188.8.131.52 (Windows/20080213)
Subject: You have received an eCard
X-Spam-Status: No, score=4.7
A few things can be gleamed from the e-mail headers. Most reputable eCard web-sites wouldn’t use a client-side e-mail tool such as Thunderbird. Nor would they purport to be “123greetings.com” but actually be a personal e-mail address of email@example.com. Similarly, “friend” isn’t something mainstream vendors would use. A closer inspection reveals that this e-mail appears to have made use of a .edu domain, i.e. an educational establishment may have been used in the transport of this particular e-mail. Indeed, it is this .edu domain that demonstrates the true nature of trojan horses – they don’t always steal your financial details, they sometimes enable your computer such that it can act as e-mail hubs whereby further propagation of the the same or similar eCard e-mail takes place. In other words your computer could be used to send out eCard e-mails.
Incidentally, this particular eCard hit my spam filter before I even saw it. However, whilst my e-mail host has good spam filtering, coupled with my local spam filter (MailWasher Pro), it doesn’t mean other e-mail hosts are doing the same, it’s still possible that an eCard could make it into your inbox.
Again, regular readers will be sucking eggs after reading this post, however these e-mails are still doing the rounds. I always find it handy having these real world examples handy as demonstrations when I’m explaining the less than salubrious side of the Internet to newcomers.