Security Corner

Nov 19 2009   2:51AM GMT

Law, PR Firms Being Targeted by Hackers says FBI

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun

According to the Washington Post, “Hackers are increasingly targeting law firms and public relations companies with a sophisticated e-mail scheme that breaks into their computer networks to steal sensitive data, often linked to large corporate clients doing business overseas.”

Needless to say, I’ve informed all of my clients who may be affected.

The attacks turn out to be classic “spear phishing” attacks and they can be very convincing. (Recall that a couple of years ago, dentists were targeted.) Here’s what the FBI has to say about the current round of attacks:

[The FBI says hackers are using] spear phishing e-mails with malicious payloads to exploit U.S. law firms and public relations firms. During the course of ongoing investigations, the FBI identified noticeable increases in computer exploitation attempts against these entities. The specific intrusion vector used against the firms is a spear phishing or targeted socially engineered e-mail designed to compromise a network by bypassing technological network defenses and exploiting the person at the keyboard. Hackers exploit the ability of end users to launch the malicious payloads from within the network by attaching a file to the message or including a link to the domain housing the file and enticing users to click the attachment or link. Network defense against these attacks is difficult as the subject lines are spoofed, or crafted, in such a way to uniquely engage recipients with content appropriate to their specific business interests. In addition to appearing to originate from a trusted source based on the relevance of the subject line, the attachment name and message body are also crafted to associate with the same specific business interests.

I wasn’t able to find the text of the latest emails floating around in this spear phishing campaign, but the above description should give you a clue.

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