If Phishing Goes Mobile…

One of the most surprising things I noticed concerning the Lockheed Martin Affair, was the affirmation contained in the Reuters Article, made  by Rick Moy, president of NSS Labs, indicating that the initial RSA attack was followed by malware and phishing campaigns seeking specific data to link tokens to end-users (an indirect evidence of the same authors behind the infamous RSA breach and the Lockheed Martin attack.

My initial surprise only lasted few seconds, since, this year is showing us a brand new role for the phishing attacks which are more and more targeted to steal corporate sensitive data, and constitute the first level of attack for Advanced Persistent Threats.

At first sight could be quite difficult to believe that users are still tricked by old-school phishing techniques, but a deeper analysis could show in my opinion, a possible (in part psychological) explanation relying on the fact that the users themselves are still used to think to phishing as something targeted to steal personal information (often with pages crafted with gross errors), and seems to be unprepared to face the new shape of phishing which targets corporate information with cybercrime purposes and industrial methods, which definitively means to perpetrate the attack with plausible and convincing methods, and most of all leveraging arguments the user hardly doubts about (I could doubt of an E-mail from my bank asking me to provide my account and credit card number, maybe, most of all in case I am not an infosec professional, I could feel more comfortable in providing my username to a (fake) provisioning portal of my Company).

But my information security beliefs are falling one after the other, and after reading this really interesting article by Adrienne Porter Felt and David Wagner of the University of California (the marvelous LaTeX layout!)  I can only confirm that mobile devices will be next frontier of phishing.

According to this paper the risk of a success of a phishing attack on mobile devices is dramatically greater than traditional devices due to some intrinsic factors such as the smaller size of the screen, the fact that many applications embed or redirect to web pages (and vice versa some or web pages redirect to applications), the fact that mobile browsers hide the address bar, and most of all the absence of application identity indicators (read the article and discover how easily a fake native application can resemble completely a browser page) which makes very difficult to discover if a certain operation is calling a fake application on the device or it is redirecting the user to a fake application resembling a legitimate login form.

Moreover, the intrinsic factors are worsened by (as usual) the user’s behavior: as a matter of fact (but this is not a peculiarity of mobile devices), users often ignore security indicators, do not check application permissions and are more and more used to legitimate applications continuously asking for passwords with embedded login forms and. Last but not least I would add the fact that they are not still used to think to mobile applications as targets of phishing (Zitmo Docet).

Guess what are the ideal candidates for Mobile Phishing attacks? Easy to say! Facebook and Twitter since they are the most common linked applications used by developers to share their creations (the power of free viral marketing!).

Given the speed with which these devices are spreading in the enterprise (see for instance this GigaOM infographic), there is much to worry about in the near future. An interesting solution could be the operating system to support a trusted password entry mechanism. Will SpoofKiller-like trusted login mechanisms be our salvation as the authors of the paper hope?

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