Simon Willison’s Weblog

52 items tagged “phishing”

The Academic Vanity Honeypot phishing scheme. Twitter thread describing a nasty phishing attack where an academic receives an email from a respected peer congratulating them on a recent article and suggesting further reading. The further reading link is a phishing site that emulates the victim’s institution’s login page. # 12th April 2018, 3:07 pm

Extended Validation is Broken. Ian Carroll spent $100 incorporating a company called “Stripe, Inc” in the state of Kentucky and $77 on an Extended Validation certificate tied to that legal entity. Safari (and Mobile Safari) now hide the URL bar completely, displaying “Stripe, Inc” in its place. “This means the attacker does not even need to register a convincing phishing domain. They can register anything, and Safari will happily cover it with a nice green bar.” # 12th December 2017, 1:36 am

“Likejacking” Takes Off on Facebook. The Facebook Like button is vulnerable to Clickjacking, and is being widely exploited. Since Likes show up in your Facebook stream, it’s an easy attack to make viral. The button is implemented on third party sites as an iframe, which would seem to me to be exploitable by design (just make the iframe transparent in the parent document and trick the user in to clicking in the right place). I can’t think of any way they could support the embedded Like button without being vulnerable to clickjacking, since clickjacking prevention relies on not allowing your UI elements to be embedded in a hostile site while the Like button’s functionality depends on exactly that. # 3rd June 2010, 10:01 am

A New Type of Phishing Attack. Nasty trick from Ava Raskin—detect when your evil phishing page loses focus (when the user switches to another tab, for example), then replace the page content with a phishing UI from a site such as Gmail. When the user switches back they’re much less likely to bother checking the URL. Combine with CSS history sniffing to only show a UI for a site that you know the user has visited. Combine that with timing tricks to only attack sites which the user is currently logged in to. # 25th May 2010, 3:20 pm

Facebook Adds Code for Clickjacking Prevention. Clever technique: Facebook pages check to see if they are being framed (using and, if they are, add a div covering the whole page which causes a top level reload should anything be clicked on. They also log framing attempts using an image bug. # 13th March 2010, 10:42 am

Some People Can’t Read URLs. Commentary on the recent “facebook login” incident from Jono at Mozilla Labs. I’d guess that most people can’t read URLs, and it worries me more than any other aspect of today’s web. If you want to stay safe from phishing and other forms of online fraud you need at least a basic understanding of a bewildering array of technologies—URLs, paths, domains, subdomains, ports, DNS, SSL as well as fundamental concepts like browsers, web sites and web servers. Misunderstand any of those concepts and you’ll be an easy target for even the most basic phishing attempts. It almost makes me uncomfortable encouraging regular people to use the web because I know they’ll be at massive risk to online fraud. # 2nd March 2010, 10:16 am

The Dangers of Clickjacking with Facebook. theharmonyguy compiled a list of actions that can be triggered on Facebook by a single click, and hence are vulnerable to clickjacking attacks. The list includes authorising malicious applications, posting links to profiles, sending friend requests and sending messages to other users. Why don’t Facebook include frame busting JavaScript on every page? # 23rd December 2009, 10:20 am

New Facebook clickjacking attack in the wild. I’m not sure why Facebook don’t use frame-busting JavaScript to avoid this kind of thing. The attack is pretty crafty—a Facebook page is positioned with everything obscured bar part of the blue “share this” button, and a fake “Human Test” asks the user to find and click the blue button to continue. # 22nd December 2009, 6:52 pm

Verified by Visa is training people to get phished. Searching for “Verified by Visa” on Twitter produces an endless stream of complaints. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say anything good about it—and it certainly doesn’t make anything more secure. Presumably there’s some kind of legal liability benefit to it, though I imagine it benefits the card issuers rather than the consumer. # 11th November 2009, 10:47 am

Why an OAuth iframe is a Great Idea. Because users should a) learn to be phished and b) not even be given the option to avoid being phished if they know what they’re doing? No, no and thrice no. If you want to improve the experience, use a popup window so the user can still see the site they are signing in to in the background. # 16th July 2009, 8:29 pm

Teaching users to be secure is a shared responsibility

Ryan Janssen: Why an OAuth iframe is a Great Idea.

[... 570 words]

The username/password key’s major disadvantage is that it open all the doors to the house. The OAuth key only opens a couple doors; the scope of the credentials is limited. That’s a benefit, to be sure, but in Twitter’s case, a malicious application that registered for OAuth with both read and write privileges can do most evil things a user might be worried about.

Alex Payne # 5th January 2009, 10:47 am

Windows Live Adds Support For OpenID. I hope they include the option to log in to the provider using CardSpace, to address phishing. # 27th October 2008, 9:34 pm

FB App Canvas Pages: I Think I’d Use IFrames. Facebook’s Charlie Cheever explains the difference between FBML canvas pages, iframe pages and XFBML when building Facebook apps. I’m always surprised at APIs that load untrusted content in an iframe, as it seems like an invitation for frame-busting phishing attacks. # 2nd October 2008, 2:39 pm

This Week in HTML 5—Episode 7: Clickjacking. Clickjacking is when a third party site is embedded in an iframe with opacity 0 and positioned such that a click on the page actually hits a button on the now invisible third party site. Mark Pilgrim explains how the NoScript site uses this in a non malicious way to for the “install now!” button. # 1st October 2008, 1:48 am

Robust Defenses for Cross-Site Request Forgery [PDF]. Fascinating report which introduces the “login CSRF” attack, where an attacker uses CSRF to log a user in to a site (e.g. PayPal) using the attacker’s credentials, then waits for them to submit sensitive information or bind the account to their credit card. The paper also includes an in-depth study of potential protection measures, including research that shows that 3-11% of HTTP requests to a popular ad network have had their referer header stripped. Around 0.05%-0.10% of requests have custom HTTP headers such as X-Requested-By stripped. # 24th September 2008, 9:40 am

Frame-Busting Gadgets. I’ve always been slightly suspicious of the Google Gadgets / OpenSocial idea of sandboxing untrusted third party content in an iframe. Sure enough, it turns out iframe busting scripts work in Gadgets, meaning a seemingly harmless gadget could potentially launch a phishing attack. # 17th September 2008, 11:23 pm

Google wants your Hotmail, Yahoo and AOL contacts. And they’re using the password anti-pattern to get them! Despite both Yahoo! and Hotmail (and Google themselves; not sure about AOL) offering a safe, OAuth-style API for retrieving contacts without asking for a password. This HAS to be a communications failure somewhere within Google. Big internet companies stand to lose the most from widespread abuse of the anti-pattern, because they’re the ones most likely to be targetted by phishers. Shameful. # 15th September 2008, 10:39 am

OAuth on the iPhone. Mike from Pownce explains their superbly implemented OAuth flow for the Pownce iPhone app, and how much push-back they got on it from regular users. One interesting point is that an iPhone application could “fake” a transition to mobile safari using core animation as part of a sophisticated phishing attack. This is a flaw in the iPhone OS itself—it does not offer a phishing-proof chrome as part of the OS. # 12th September 2008, 9:47 pm

Google Chrome, the comic book (via) Google have finally announced a browser project, though it’s currently vapourware (or rather comicware), existing only as a Scott McCloud comic. Still, it looks fascinating—entirely open source, WebKit with a brand new JavaScript VM, every tab running in a separate process for smarter memory usage and some new UI concepts and anti-pishing measures thrown in as well. # 1st September 2008, 7:45 pm

OAuth came out of my worry that if the Twitter API became popular, we’d be spreading passwords all around the web. OAuth took longer to finish than it took for the Twitter API to become popular, and as a result many Twitter users’ passwords are scattered pretty carelessly around the web. This is a terrible situation, and one we as responsible web developers should work to prevent.

Blaine Cook # 14th August 2008, 10:01 am

The statement that the password anti-pattern “teaches users to be phished” should be rephrased “has taught users to be phished”

Me, on Twitter # 13th August 2008, 12:52 pm

Reviews of the Pownce app on the iPhone app store on Flickr. I had to stitch together a screenshot because you can’t actually link to content in the App Store (unless you don’t care that people without iTunes won’t be able to follow your link). Three out of the four reviews complain about the OAuth browser authentication step, which is frustrating because Pownce have implemented it so well. # 12th August 2008, 11:05 am

Exposure (iPhone app) behaves suspiciously. Exposure on the iPhone does OAuth-style authentication incorrectly—it asks the user to authenticate in an embedded, chromeless browser which provides no way of confirming that the site being interacted with is not a phishing attack. Ben Ward explains how the Pownce iPhone app gets it right in the comments. Exposure author Fraser Spiers also responds. # 12th August 2008, 7:47 am

Why I can’t put Tibet in my Hotmail address. Apparently it’s because “TIB” is name of a bank in Florida, and Microsoft are trying to prevent phishers from creating e-mail addresses that include the names of financial institutions. # 10th August 2008, 10:41 pm

The Truth about Web Navigation. Jeremy Zawodny on regular users understanding the browser address bar: “They don’t. And they never will.” Then they’re going to get phished, and there’s absolutely nothing we can do to help them. # 19th July 2008, 11:42 pm

Yahoo! Address Book API Delivered. At last, now there’s no excuse to ask your users for their Yahoo! username and password just so you can scrape their address book. # 4th June 2008, 6:03 pm

Scaring people with fullScreen. Unsurprisingly, you can work around the “Press Esc to exit full screen mode” message in Flash by distracting the user with lots of similar looking visual noise. This opens up opportunities for cunning phishing attacks that simulate the chrome of the entire operating system. EDIT: Comments point out that text entry via the keyboard is still disabled, limiting the damage somewhat. # 2nd June 2008, 10:18 pm

OpenID phishing demo (via) A demonstration of the OpenID man-in-the-middle phishing attack. OpenIDs are immune to this particular variant due to the landing page not asking for your password (the phishing site could still provide their own redesigned landing page and hope users don’t notice though). # 28th May 2008, 8:09 am

PayPal Plans to Ban Unsafe Browsers. At first I thought they were going to encourage real anti-phishing features in browsers, which would be a big win for OpenID... but it turns out they’re just requiring EV SSL certificates which have been proven not to actually work. # 19th April 2008, 10:45 am