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Hotmail and Yahoo users also victims of targeted attacks

Robert McMillan, IDG News Service | June 3, 2011
Web mail users at Yahoo and Hotmail have been hit with the same kind of targeted attacks that were disclosed earlier this week by Google, according to a security software vendor.

Google said that the phishing attacks it had detected were launched from computers located in Jinan, China. That led some to suspect that the phishing was state-sponsored, but China’s U.S. Embassy said Thursday that China is the victim of cybercrime, not the perpetrator. “As a responsible player in cyberspace, China strongly opposes unlawful online activities and supports international cooperation in striking down on such misdeeds,” said Wang Baodong, an embassy spokesman, in an e-mail. “Any claims of so-called Chinese state support for hacking are completely fictitious, and blaming misdeeds on China is irresponsible and unacceptable.”

In a blog post, published Thursday, Villeneuve outlined other attacks, including one that leveraged a Hotmail Web programming bug to suck e-mail messages from users’ accounts. This attack worked by tricking victims into reading a maliciously encoded email message. It hit Taiwanese victims.

Another attack, spotted recently by Trend Micro, attempted to break into Yahoo Mail accounts by stealing the browser’s cookie files and then using that information to try and trick Yahoo’s servers into divulging sensitive information, Villneuve said. However, it looks like this attack didn’t actually work thanks to technical difficulties, he said.

Microsoft was unable to immediately comment for this story, but earlier it did confirm that it fixed the Hotmail flaw. A Yahoo spokeswoman declined to comment on Trend Micro’s report, but said that the company does “take security very seriously.”

“We invest heavily in protective measures to ensure the security of our users and their data,” the Yahoo spokeswoman said in an e-mail message. “We also use a multi-faceted approach to further protect against spam, phishing and other online scams, which includes rapid response, industry collaboration, public policy efforts, and consumer awareness.”

Although Gmail is now getting the most attention, Yahoo Mail is actually the most targeted Web mail platform, according to one researcher, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is involved in sensitive investigations into these attacks. “It’s been going on for a very long time,” he said. “Campaigns go on every day.”


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