Sophisticated Targeted Link Spam


What appeared to be an intelligent comment in one of my blog postings turned out to be targeted link spam. This is a worrying trend, because, although we can defend ourselves against mass attacks, we're very vulnerable to targeted strikes.

The comment was posted on my Manifesto for Agile Government blog entry and read as follows.

Interesting idea. Where have you experienced it? We have seen remarkable results when people (civil servants or citizens) can distance themselves from bureaucracy, but then we occasionally stumble on questions of authority and legitimacy.
Authority and legitimacy are indeed problems with the ideas I proposed, so this seemed like a valid comment. I clicked on the sender's link to find out where they had experienced those problems, and, to my surprise, I got an online pharmacy. I'm not going to do them the favor to post a link to the site, but you can get the idea from the image below.
online pharmacy

I run an IP geolocation query on the poster's IP address and found out that the perpetrator is located in Moscow. I found it hard to believe that someone was spending serious time to think about the issue just to post a link, so a searched more for the posted comment. It turns out that the perpetrator had simply copied verbatim one of my comments. As we all know, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and I clearly fell for it.

This type of attack is worrying, because it seems that spending a minimum of effort to customize a post (or a spam email) can dramatically improve its success. Millions of people post their personal details and activities on Facebook. If some malicious types use these data to personalize email messages with references to friends, interests, or recent activities ("here are some photographs from the Lady Gaga concert you went yesterday") they can launch very troublesome social engineering attacks. It's one thing to receive a confidential business proposition from a Nigerian minister, and quite another to receive a file purporting to contain last week's skiing excursion photographs from your boyfriend. Be afraid!

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Last modified: Thursday, January 6, 2011 12:32 am

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