No Surprise – Very Bad News for Webmail – Passwords Exposed for Hotmail, Gmail, and Yahoo!

07 October 2009 Internet, IT & e-Discovery Blog Blog
Authors: Peter Vogel

Apparently large scale phishing attacks resulted in compromises to tens of thousands of webmail accounts, hardly a surprise. However it is pretty amazing that so many individuals fall for the phishing tricks. As a matter of fact this morning I got an email purportedly from PayPal indicating that my account had been hacked and if I would only provide personal information including credit card information, social security number, date of birth, well you get it. Of course it would be incredibly stupid for me, or thousands of these phishing victims to believe the emails that come to our inboxes. What can we do to protect ourselves?

OnGuard Online

Apparently few people take the time to review OnGuard Online before they get duped by phishing and spam attacks. However the OnGuard Online is a great website hosted by a number of federal agencies and non-profits including: Federal Trade Commission, Department of Commerce, Department of Homeland Security, Internal Revenue Service, Computing Technology Industry Association, National Crime Prevention Council, Better Business Bureau, and Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG). OnGuard Online provides cute videos and games to educate consumers about the risks associated with: phishing, computer security, email scams, spam, VOIP, among other topics. The OnGuard Online site also provides publications and allows consumers to file complaints.

Federal Government to the Rescue?

If the CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing) Act of 2003 is any indication it’s probably unlikely that the US government can do much to protect citizens since there seems to be an increase in spam and phishing since 2003, not a reduction as was hoped when the 2003 law was passed. There are estimates that 80% of all email is unsolicited which should be reason enough for individuals to be more leery of suspicious phishing emails. Hotmail claims it has 400 million accounts so the number of compromised accounts could be huge and reports from the APWG estimate that phishing attacks will continue. Since the US government does not seem capable of managing cyber security and the White House cannot get anyone to be Cyber Czar is it any wonder that the webmail accounts are compromised by the thousand?

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