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One Step Ahead
October 16, 2007, Volume 54, No. 8


one step ahead

Another tip in a series provided by the Offices of Information Systems & Computing and Audit, Compliance & Privacy.

“Phishing” and “Domain Tasting”

“Phishing” has been the subject of previous “One Step Ahead” articles, but “phishers,” like “spammers” are continually coming up with new wrinkles in their ongoing efforts to separate you from your confidential, personal information—and your money—so it’s worthwhile to keep up to date on the latest trends.

“Phishing” in its basic form arrives as an e-mail message purporting to be from a reputable online business or financial institution. The message instructs you to click on a link to a website where you will be asked to enter information about yourself and your account in order to fix a “problem.” The website is phony, of course, and is intended to harvest this personal information for purposes of identity theft and other crimes.

A recent report by the Anti-Phishing Working Group (www.antiphishing.org) investigated the relationship between “phishing” and the practice known as “domain tasting.” Domain tasters are domain registration companies that register large numbers of names (such as “upenn.edu”, “verizon.com”, “whyy.org”), sample the amount of traffic to those names, and use the 5-day “grace period” to cancel registrations that seem unattractive. Many of these “tasted” domain names are intentional common misspellings of widely known names, e.g., “cambellsoup.com” instead of “campbellsoup.com,”and it has been suspected that “phishers” have been exploiting this type of activity to make their phony websites appear more genuine.

The report concluded that those who engage in domain tasting do not necessarily engage in “phishing,” and vice versa, but noted that the sheer number of names being registered by domain tasters is making it more difficult for anti-phishing groups to keep track of genuine “phishing” domains. For those of us who use e-mail and web browsers, however, the basic lesson here is: pay close attention to each URL you visit - if it’s looks “phishy” due to incorrect spelling or otherwise, chances are it is.

For additional tips, see the One Step Ahead link on the Information Security website: www.upenn.edu/computing/security/.

Almanac - October 16, 2007, Volume 54, No. 8