Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Sharing helps hackers sharpen 'spears'

30 July 2013, 09:27

San Francisco - Sharing on social media helps hackers sharpen "spear phishing" attacks they use to trick their way into computers, security experts said on Monday.

Spear phishing refers to individualising deceptive messages sent to people in order to trick them into clicking on links or opening files booby-trapped with viruses.

Public posts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Foursquare and other online venues give hackers fodder to mimic the way people write and the words they use, said Ulisses Albuquerque of the security firm Trustwave.

"I don't think people have any idea what kind of insight that gives to a potential hacker," Albuquerque said.

He and colleague Joaquim Espinhara are at a premier Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas this week to present a talk titled Using Online Activity As Digital Fingerprints To Create A Better Spear Phisher.

Malicious code

The Trustwave security consultants created a software tool that "fingerprints" the way people communicate by analysing online posts.

The tool scrutinises posts at social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to ascertain writing styles, right down to hash tags added to indicate subjects of online posts.

A hacker unable to break into a company's computer network could write a convincing e-mail pretending to be from a friend of an employee and include an attachment or link that, once clicked, unleashes malicious code.

"Say a CEO has a Twitter or LinkedIn account and I am able to see those posts," Albuquerque said.

"Then I could produce content that looks like it came from him and send it to his staff, who will be less suspicious of clicking a link."

He said the Trustwave-developed tool was not designed to extrapolate insights into people's conduct or personalities, but that such observations could be made if desired.

"Absolutely, you can show what the people posting are like," Albuquerque said.

The tool provides "spear phishers" with outlines for creating messages likely to hook prey.

It is intended for "ethical hackers" such as security professionals working with companies or organisations to find and patch weak spots in computer network defences, according to Albuquerque.

It can also be used to help prove when posts claiming to be written by someone are bogus, he said.



Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...