Citibank Email Phishing Scam Targets Federal Government Employees
Posted on by Zuly GonzalezCategories Security, Web SecurityLeave a comment on Citibank Email Phishing Scam Targets Federal Government Employees

I received the below email phishing scam spoofing Citibank. Along with running Light Point Security, I’m also a government employee.

Citibank Phishing Email Scam Linking to Malicious

The subject of the Citibank email scam is “Message ID: 72195”. As soon as I saw that subject line, I knew it was a scam, because it’s too generic. I wanted to get more information about this phishing scam, so I opened the email using Light Point Web to avoid downloading any malware.

The email says it is from “Citibank – Service” and the email address associated with that account is The body of the email message says, “You have received an urgent system message from the Citibank Department. To read your message, please, go to your account immediately.” You’d think that for such an urgent message they would have taken the time to provide a more descriptive subject line.

The link in the scam email points to the Romanian domain

Citibank Email Phishing Scam Malicious Domain

The Norton site rating for identified 4 identity threats on the phishing site. Norton defines identity threats as items such as spyware or keyloggers that attempt to steal personal information from your computer.

Norton Rating For Malicious Domain of the Citibank Phishing Email Scam

How to Protect Yourself From Phishing Scams

Here are 4 things you can do to protect your identity, and personal information, from malicious phishing email scams.

  • If you receive an email message claiming to be from Citi, or Citibank, with the subject line Message ID: [set of two numbers here], do not open it, and delete it right away.
  • If you receive an email message from Citi, or Citibank, and are not sure if it’s a legitimate message, call Citi to confirm the email. Your account has a log of the email messages Citi has sent you. The Citi representative can tell you if they’ve sent you any recent emails. Citi’s 24 hour customer service number is 1-866-670-6462.
  • If you mistakenly open the email message, and it states that you need to check your Citi messages, or inbox, open up a new browser window and login directly to your Citi account. Never click on a link in these email messages. If after logging in to your online account, you don’t have any recent messages from Citi, you can be sure the email you received is a phishing scam. Delete it immediately.
  • If there is a link in an email message you are unsure about, hover over the link and look at what the status bar tells you. If the URL shown in the status bar isn’t for the website you’re expecting, it’s likely a phishing scam. In this Citibank scam email the link points to the website, not a legitimate Citi website. Note that the scammers tried to make it look like a legitimate Citi website by including citibankcom as part of the URL. Also notice the strange http-like characters at the beginning of the URL.

Malicious Citibank Email Phishing Scam Expanded Domain With Explanation

Citi will never ask you for your password, or to update personal information via email. If you receive a suspicious email claiming to be from Citi, or Citbank, forward it to

Have you received similar phishing emails claiming to be from Citi? Let us know.

The Facebook Will Start Charging Scam
Posted on by Zuly GonzalezCategories Web SecurityLeave a comment on The Facebook Will Start Charging Scam

With over 400 million users, Facebook is a constant target of online criminals and scam artists. The “Facebook will start charging” scam has been around since last year, yet people are still falling for it. Even worse, there’s been an increase in these types of scams over the last couple of months.

How the Facebook Will Start Charging Scam Works

Online criminals create Facebook pages claiming that Facebook will begin charging some monthly fee. For example, the page “I won’t pay $3.99 to use Facebook starting in July” is a scam. And the page “I will not pay to use Facebook as of Sept 7th 2010” is also a scam.

In fact, Facebook spokesman Larry Yu stated, “We have absolutely no plans to charge for the basic service of using Facebook.”

Facebook Will Start Charging Scam Page

There are many variations on this theme, and they’re all scams. I searched on Facebook for “Facebook pay” and got 287 page results (see below). And every single one of these pages is a scam! The top result had 7661 fans.

Just out of curiosity, I searched for “Facebook pay” again the following day and noticed that the pages are growing. The top result went from 7661 fans to 7844 fans and the second result went from 6877 fans to 6899 fans. So it looks like things are going in the wrong direction.

Facebook Will Start Charging Scam Search Results Facebook Will Start Charging Scam Search Results

Online scammers create Facebook pages (and groups) in an attempt to trick people into divulging their personal information, downloading malicious content, or inviting their friends to join the page. In the case of the “Facebook will start charging” scam, it seems the most common method is to get people to invite their friends to the page in an attempt to amass a large number of fans they can then sell to unsuspecting businesses.

Just take a look at the information on the “I will not pay to use Facebook as of Sept 7th 2010” page:

I Will Not Pay for Facebook Scam Page Description

And if you look at the information on some of the other Facebook Pay pages, you will notice that they don’t ask you for any personal information, or ask you to download something, or ask you to go to another website. The main thing these pages are asking people to do is to invite all of their friends. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t malicious links showing up on these pages, so be careful, and don’t click on any links in these pages.

So now that you know the truth, don’t join any Facebook pages claiming that Facebook will start charging.

How to Protect Yourself on Facebook

For the most part, these Facebook Pay pages weren’t setup to steal your personal information – although I didn’t look at every single page. And even if they were setup for that purpose, you usually have to take some action for this to occur.

But joining not only encourages criminals to keep coming up with these scams, it also puts your friends at risk. How? Well, as soon as you join, it’s displayed on your friends’ news feeds. A friend could see it and then join the group.

So, other than the obvious don’t join advice, here are a few other tips to help keep you and your friends secure while on Facebook:

  • If you see your friends joining these Facebook Pay pages, warn them about the scam and tell them to remove themselves from the page.
  • Spread the word. Scammers take advantage of the fact that people aren’t aware of these scams to do their dirty work. If people are informed of the risks, then it becomes a lot harder to get away with it. So tell your Facebook friends, and send them a link to this post, or any other post on the topic.
  • Be suspicious of any Facebook page that makes it easy for you to invite your friends, asks you to download something, or asks for your personal information in return for something else.
  • Always check the page’s wall before joining. There are legitimate reasons why you may be asked to download and install something from Facebook pages. However, there are also plenty of malicious programs out there. The legitimate stuff will, for the most part, work as advertised. On the other hand, the malicious stuff usually won’t work at all. So if you go to the page’s wall and see a lot of people complaining about the fact that it doesn’t work, stay away! Odds are it’s malware. And I’m not talking about a couple of bad reviews, because even the legitimate programs will get bad reviews every now and then. But if you see mostly complaints, then it’s likely to be malware. And even if it’s not, why waste your time, it obviously doesn’t work!
  • Join the Facebook Security page to get the latest security updates from Facebook, or visit Facebook’s Safety Center.
  • Read and follow the 5 most important steps for internet security to protect your computer from online criminals.

Have you come across this scam? Have you come across any other Facebook scams lately? What other ways of staying safe on Facebook do you recommend?


As Strong As Your Weakest Link
Posted on by Beau AdkinsCategories Web SecurityLeave a comment on As Strong As Your Weakest Link

The weakest linkWhen trying to evaluate your own security, remember the old addage: “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” Here is story of some recent experiences I had which reinforced this for me.

About a month ago, I started seeing all kinds of articles online related to a massive amount of websites being hacked. Most of these hacks were WordPress sites hosted with a large hosting company such as GoDaddy. This site is WordPress hosted by GoDaddy, so when I saw this, I was very interested.

I read the articles to find out how to know if your site had fallen victim to this. The main goal of this attack was to place a bit of php code into every WordPress file on your server. When WordPress would serve up a page, this code would be executed. The result would be a redirect placed in each page that a user of your site would see. This would redirect the user to a malicious website which would attempt to exploit your site’s visitors.

I immediately checked the content of my site and was relieved to find that my site appeared unhacked. But I was not out of the woods yet. No one yet had figured out how the hack was able to infiltrate all these systems. Many people were blaming it on a flaw in WordPress. Others were blaming it on a flaw with GoDaddy’s hosting. Until I figured out where the flaw was, I was still at risk.

This hack was showing up on web platforms other than WordPress. This makes it seem like it couldn’t be a problem with WordPress that was allowing this to happen. But, it was also happening on hosting providers other than GoDaddy. On top of that, if it were a flaw in WordPress or GoDaddy, this hack would be capable of showing up on many more high-traffic pages. You would think that a hacker armed with an unknown exploit with such power would hit the biggest targets available, instead of just a few tiny blogs.

GoDaddy was blaming it on people using out of date WordPress installations. However, I read many articles reporting about people who got hacked, rebuilt their sites with the newest version of everything, and then immediately being hacked again.

The root cause of this hack still hasn’t been figured out as far as I know. I have read that a large number of the affected sites had some weak passwords. At this point, I believe this to be it, but there is no way for me to know for sure. I use very strong passwords. Maybe this is what saved me. Or maybe the hackers just hadn’t found this site.

The moral of the story is to remember you are only as secure as your weakest link. You can build a house out of solid steel with a vault door and barred windows, but if you leave a spare key under your doormat, how much more secure are you? WordPress and GoDaddy can be completely secure, but a guessable password makes it irrelevant.

Latest Twitter Email Phishing Scam
Posted on by Zuly GonzalezCategories Web SecurityLeave a comment on Latest Twitter Email Phishing Scam

The latest phishing scam targeting Twitter users is in the form of an email message claiming to be from Twitter Support. The subject line of the fake email message starts off with the word Twit and is followed by a set of numbers. These numbers will vary from email to email. The email message claims that you have some number of “unreaded” or delayed messages from Twitter, and provides a link to supposedly check your “unreaded” messages. How nice of them! But instead the link takes you to a malicious phishing website.

There are actually two links in the fake email message, both linking back to malicious phishing websites. Don’t click on either of them! Here’s what the email looks like:

Twitter unreaded email phishing scam

According to Twitter Safety, Twitter Support doesn’t send emails about unread messages.

Twitter safety email phishing scam alert

What Can You Do?

Here are 7 things you can do to protect yourself, and avoid becoming a victim of email phishing scams.

  • If you receive an email message claiming to be from Twitter or Twitter Support with the subject line Twit [set of two numbers here], do not open it and delete it right away.
  • If you receive an email with bad English or misspellings, most likely it’s a scam. For example using the word unreaded instead of unread. Don’t click on any links in the email or download any attachments.
  • Don’t click on links in email messages. Always go to the site directly and log in to your account to check it out.
  • If you must click on a link in an email, for example it’s not a check your account status type of email, hover over the link and look at what the status bar tells you. If the URL shown in the status bar isn’t for the website you’re expecting to go to, don’t click on the link. In the case of this recent Twitter scam, the URL in the status bar doesn’t link to Instead it links to

Twitter email phishing scam domain name on status bar

  • Note that the only domain name used by Twitter is Any URL that doesn’t start with is not an official Twitter page. That’s not to say it’s a malicious site, it’s just not an official Twitter page, so use caution when going to these sites.
  • If you have a Twitter account, follow Twitter Safety or Twitter Spam to get the latest news about known Twitter scams.
  • Read and follow the 5 most important steps for internet security to protect your computer from these cyber crimes.

Image credits: Fake Twitter email, Twitter Safety tweets

Why You Are Not “Good Enough” to Avoid Malware
Posted on by Beau AdkinsCategories Web SecurityLeave a comment on Why You Are Not “Good Enough” to Avoid Malware

Compiling CodeIn my line of work, most of my colleagues are very technically savvy. Sometimes I will ask them about their views on different computer security products. More often than I would expect, I receive this response: “Oh, I think that is really important, but I don’t need it because I know what I’m doing.” When I press more on what it is they are doing that makes them immune, here are some of the possible responses, and my thoughts on each.

I’m careful where I click

Hmm, thats good. How are they careful. Maybe they don’t go to any site they haven’t heard of? So googling something, and clicking that perfect result is out of bounds for this person? Never clicking any link that has been run through a URL shortener like is so common on twitter? Staying away from sites that show ads? Never going to a site which doesn’t have perfect server security? If they did all these things then they really aren’t browsing at all. ANY site can be bad.  There are just too many ways that even the most trustworthy site can be turned malicious –  I will save that for another post.

I don’t use Windows

First off, I love Windows. It is my OS of choice, but it saddens me to say that this tactic does help. But why? Because Windows sucks? Not really, it is just a matter of targeting. When a hacker writes an exploit, he wants it to work on as many people as possible. Since most of the world uses Windows, he writes his exploit for Windows. It doesn’t mean he couldn’t have written it for any other OS, and there are times when hackers do write the exploits for the other OS’s. So while using a different OS will get you by most of the malware on the web, you are still counting on luck.

I’ve never gotten a virus before…

This one is classic on so many levels. So you’ve never been infected with malware before, therefore you must be immune… Hmmm, ok, lets assume that to be true, even though a child could tell you that it’s NOT. If you never use anti-malware products, and you have never been infected by anything, that tells me that you have never been infected by a poorly-written, or relatively harmless piece of malware. Those are the ones that you would be aware of if you were infected. A relatively harmless piece of malware would have a juvenile purpose: changing your desktop wallpaper, or showing you popups for porn sites. Not so bad. If the malware were more sinister, they want to make sure you don’t know they are there. They want to steal things from you without your knowledge. But if they are poorly written, they can crash your computer or other applications. But if it’s a well-written sinister piece of malware, that’s bad. You will not know it is there just by using your computer normally. Software specifically designed to find this stuff is the only way to know if it is there. You know, like anti-virus products.

Don’t fall into the trap in thinking you are just too smart to get infected online. It is a dangerous place out there, and it’s actually getting worse. In the old days, hackers wrote malware just to mess with people. Now they make money off of it. They are smart, and persistent. Do everything that you can to protect yourself. Here is a good starting point.

Spammers Create Fake Facebook Profiles
Posted on by Zuly GonzalezCategories Web SecurityLeave a comment on Spammers Create Fake Facebook Profiles

Have you received a friend request on Facebook from a hot girl you don’t recognize? You say what the heck, I don’t know her, but she’s hot, so yeah I’ll be your friend. Bad move! Take a look at the profile below, see anything strange?

Fake Facebook User Profile Maybe you received a friend request from someone you don’t recognize with a lot of mutual friends. So you accept the request thinking, well I probably met this person at some point. Wrong again.

Facebook spammers are now creating fake user profiles to amass a large number of “friends” they can then sell to unsuspecting businesses. These businesses may have seen an ad similar to this one:

Spammer Advertising

Soon after you accept requests from these fake users, you start getting invitations to join Facebook fan pages. This is how spammers create artificial word of mouth marketing.

Worse yet, now these spammers have access to personal information you’ve marked as viewable by friends only. This includes two very important pieces of information, your birthdate and location. This can possibly lead to identity theft!

What Can You Do?

  • Avoid friending anyone you don’t recognize. Hot girls aren’t the only threat, it could be a hot guy, or a normal looking person.
  • Ask a real friend. If you get a friend request from someone with mutual friends, send your real friends a message and ask them about this person you don’t recognize. If several of your real friends tell you they don’t actually know this person, stay away!
  • Look through your current friend list. Remove anyone you don’t recognize, especially if they’re constantly inviting you to join Facebook pages.
  • Spread the word. Spammers get away with this because most people aren’t aware of these threats. So tell your friends.

Have you seen any other suspicious Facebook activity? Let us know.

Beware, Facebook Password Email Scam
Posted on by Zuly GonzalezCategories Web SecurityLeave a comment on Beware, Facebook Password Email Scam

There is yet another Facebook email scam going around. This time victims receive an email with the subject line “Facebook Password Reset Confirmation! Customer Support”. The email instructs the victim to click on an attachment in order to retrieve the password. The attachment is really a password stealer, and once installed it can potentially access any username and password combination utilized on that computer – not just for the user’s Facebook account. Here is an example of what the Facebook password reset scam email looks like.

Facebook Password Reset Email Scam Example

Facebook never sends emails alerting a user that they changed his or her password. If you receive this email, delete it right away and do not click on the attachment. To protect your computer from this type of cybercrime, follow The 5 Most Important Steps for Internet Security. Also, visit the Facebook Security page for tips on protecting yourself from scams on Facebook.

To get more details on this Facebook email scam, read the McAfee Labs Blog.

The 5 Most Important Steps for Internet Security
Posted on by Beau AdkinsCategories Web Security4 Comments on The 5 Most Important Steps for Internet Security

A closed lockThere are a lot of simple things you can do to keep yourself safe online. Here are the 5 most important things you can do today to maximize your web security. Most of these tips are simple enough for even the most novice user. Also, some of these tips assume you are using windows.

  1. Set a unique password for your administrator account – Some Windows flavors come with a built-in administator account with no password. This is the easiest way to allow a hacker to hijack your computer. You need to set it to something, and it needs to be something hard to guess (more about picking passwords later). To set it, go to Start -> Control Panel. Then click on the Administrative Tools icon. Once in there, there is a Computer Management icon. On the tree view on the left, you should see an entry for “Users”. Clicking on this should give you a view on the right of all the accounts. You can use these to enable or disable accounts, and change the passwords. If you are using Vista or Windows 7, this default admin account is turned off by default, so you shouldn’t have to worry about it.
  2. Use strong passwords – Setting your password is a waste of time if it can be guessed. What should you not use as a password? Anything that your closest friend could ever, EVER, guess. So don’t use your name, birthday, relative’s name, etc. Don’t use “password”, “123”, etc. Don’t make your password something you would find in a dictionary. What should you use? Use at least 8 characters total. Use something unguessable. Use upper and lowercase. Use numbers. Use symbols. Here is an example of a very strong password. “R8b#5kB2*”. This would take decades at best for a hacker to guess. At least it would have if I hadn’t written it here. Assume this one as guessable now. So this is a strong password. But it is very difficult to remember. To make a password that is almost as strong, but easier to remember, try making up words, mix up the case, and add a number or 2. Like this one “Flard9Glorb2”. This is just about as unguessable as the previous one. Except this one is pronouncable, which means you can remember it. Use a strong password important accounts you have (especially for logging on to your computer).
  3. Install an antivirus product – Everyone should have some sort of antivirus installed. More importantly, it should be up-to-date. This usually costs around $40 for a year or 2, but it is worth it. There are some free antivirus tools out there, but I have never used them, so I can’t offer any opinion on them. Some internet service providers offer free subscriptions to antivirus for its users. Even if you can’t get antivirus for free, you still need to get it. $40 is not a lot of money to help keep your personal info safe.
  4. Install (and configure) a software firewall – A lot of the antivirus suites come with a firewall. If your’s didn’t, find another one. There are a ton online, and I haven’t used enough of them to offer a recommendation of one over the others. But once you get one, make sure it is set up to monitor both incoming and outgoing traffic. Most of them only offer incoming protection by default, but if you are behind a router, this is basically useless. Once you turn on outgoing monitoring, you will start seeing notifications popping up asking your permission to allow a program to access the internet. Once you have allowed or disallowed all the programs on your computer which are trying to use the internet, you shouldn’t see any more popups, except when new (possibly bad) software is installed. Why should you care about a firewall? Assume a bad piece of software gets installed on your machine, and your antivirus doesn’t catch it. If it tries to send your personal info out to the internet, or contact its creator to get tasking, hopefully the firewall will stop it, and render it impotent.
  5. Turn on auto-updates – Both your operating system and your browser should have auto-updating capabilities. This means when a new version is released, you get it automatically, instead of having to go look for it. The most common reason for a new version of software is a patched vulnerability. If you continue using a piece of software with an unpatched vulnerability, you are at a very high risk of having your computer exploited.

Completing these 5 simple tasks shouldn’t take more than an afternoon, and will put you miles ahead of most everyone else on the internet. Hackers usually pick the low hanging fruit. It is quicker, easier, and sadly most of the “fruit” out there is hangs pretty low.

Now, don’t leave this article thinking you are invincible online. There are still some very sophisticated hackers out there. Consider these steps as a good starting point, because if you haven’t done all of these, doing the more advanced things is a waste of time.

Watch Out for Tax Season Phishing Scams
Posted on by Zuly GonzalezCategories Web Security1 Comment on Watch Out for Tax Season Phishing Scams

Online Phishing ScamsI found an interesting post on the McAfee Labs Blog on tax time phishing scams worth sharing.

Every year during tax season, online criminals create fake domains in an attempt to trick taxpayers into revealing their personal and financial information. Victims might visit these phishing and malicious websites via any number of effective redirection methods, such as phishing attacks, forum postings, and black-hat search-engine optimizations.

If you get an email from the “IRS”, it’s probably a scam. The IRS Consumer Alert page says, “The IRS does not send taxpayers unsolicited emails about their tax accounts, tax situations, or personal tax issues.” Here is an example of a fraudulent IRS email. To prevent your personal information from being compromised, avoid replying or clicking on any links in the email, and delete these messages.

For the full article visit the McAfee Labs Blog.

Well I hope you found my tax season series to be helpful. Let me know if you have topic suggestions for next year’s tax time series.