Computer Crime Research Center


A look into phishing

Date: July 01, 2006
By: Daniel Bardsley

In the movie "What Dreams May Come" a character played by Robin Williams is killed in a car accident and ends up in heaven. His wife, despondent over the loss, kills herself and ends up in hell. Williams decides to rescue her by walking over an "ocean" leading to hell. He steps on bobbing faces of people who are in hell but don't know it yet.

Their faces look like animated volleyballs. They talk nonstop, justifying their right to lie, kill and steal. I am convinced that the men and women behind Internet phishing schemes have those exact faces.

Phishing – pronounced fishing – is the Internet term for spammers who send official- looking e-mails from established banks and other businesses. The e-mails insist that you update your bank account or credit card information. But when you do, these volleyball-in-hell faces steal the information – and your money.

For the past two weeks, hundreds of Inland Northwest folks, including me, have received e-mails that appear to come from BECU, Washington state's largest credit union. Formerly known as Boeing Employees' Credit Union, it has 435,000 members nationwide.

I don't belong to BECU, but the subject line of the June 13 e-mail caught my eye: Unauthorized charge to your credit card. I figured it for a scam, but I wondered why the e-mail hadn't been snared by my computer's spam filter. A slight digression here.

I can click on our company's e-mail filter folder and see all the spam detoured away from my inbox. Hundreds arrive each week, hawking such items as Viagra – woman wants man is able – and fake university degrees.
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