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Friday Summary: April 8, 2011

I was almost Phished this week. Not by some Nigerian scammer, or Russian botnet, but by my own bank.

Bundled with both my checking and mortgage statements – with the bank’s name, logos, and phone number was the warning: “Notice: Credit Report Review Re: Suspicious activity detection”. The letter made it appear that there were ongoing suspicious activity reported by the credit agency, and I needed to take immediate action. I thought “Crud, now I have to deal with this.” Enclosed was a signature sheet that looked like they wanted permission to investigate and take action. But wait a minute – when does my bank ask for permission? My suspicion awoke.

I looked at the second page of the letter, under an electron microscope to read the 10^-6 point fine print, and it turned out suspicious activity was only implied. They were using fear of not acting to scare me into signing the sheet. The letter was a ruse to get me to buy credit monitoring ‘Services’ from some dubious partner firm that has been repeatedly fined millions by various state agencies for deceptive business practices.

Now my bank – First Usury Depository – is known for new ‘products’ that are actually financial IED’s. Of the 30 fantastic new FUD offerings mailed in the last three years, not one could have saved me money. All would have resulted in higher fees, and all contained traps to hike interest rates or incur hidden charges. But the traps are hidden in the financial terms – they had not stooped to fear before, instead using the lure of financial independence and assurances that I was being very smart.

Alan Shimmel’s right that we need to be doubly vigilant for phishing scams, just for the wrong reasons. Both phishers and bank executives are looking to make a quick buck by fooling people. They both use social engineering tactics: official-looking scary communications, to trigger fear, to prompt rushed and careless action. And they both face very low probabilities of jail time. I can’t remember who tweeted “Legitimate breach notification is indistinguishable from phishing”, but it’s true on a number of levels. Phished or FUDded, you’re !@#$ed either way. I have to give First Usury some credit – their attack is harder to detect. I am trained to look at email headers and HTML content, but not so adept at deciphering credit reports and calculating loan-to-value ratios. If I am phished out of my credit card number, I am only liable for the first $50 If I am FUDded into a new service by my bank, it’s $20 every month. Hey, it has worked for AOL for decades…

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Remember, for every comment selected, Securosis makes a $25 donation to Hackers for Charity. This week’s best comment goes to Lubinski, in response to Incite: Do Work.

“They seem to forget we are all supposed to be on the same team”

I work with a few people like this. It makes me wonder if they don’t really think about it and just go on doing what they have been doing for X number of years and consider that good enough.

The RSA can get pwnd as easily as the rest of the world, its not like they have users that carry around magical anti-hacker unicorn’s.

I see a new buzzword coming on, StuxAPT. :) No?

—Adrian Lane

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By Paul  on  04/08  at  11:01 AM

The “Good Sam Club” (for the RV-enabled crowd) has some amazing FUD-Phish pieces. They obviously know they have an older clientele, as the 8 page (I kid you not!) advert is embellished with large type, big scary RED words, underlining, and scary-pointy-arrows. “Subscribe to our Identity Protection Services Because You ARE ALREADY A VICTIM! You Are! Really!”

They don’t ever explain why you would purchase identity protection from a camping club…

By Adrian Lane  on  04/08  at  11:16 AM

@Paul - I did not even discuss the point, but is it even known if credit monitoring services help the consumer?

-Adrian

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