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U.S. Executives now target of Tax Court Scam


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Latest trolling technique

The U.S. government and some security specialists issued a new warning of ongoing spear phishing attacks that are disguised as overdue tax notices from the U.S. Tax Court.

The notices are addressed as e-mail messages to top-level executives at various companies; they look quite realistic as being real petitions from the Tax Court and have legitimate sounding domains, such as “ustaxcourt.gov” in the links and in the ‘from’ address, as well as a legitimate telephone number. 

The phony notices even have the executive’s name listed in the petition as the “Respondent” in a case brought by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue. An executive at McAfee’, the antivirus software company recently received such a notice earlier this week.

As with similar phishing attacks, clicking on the link can result in malicious code, such as keyloggers, being installed on your computer. When the user clicks on the link in the phishing message, they are directed to a phony Tax Court Web site, where they are then asked to upgrade their version of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser. 

Clicking on the fake IE update link instead downloads and installs malware, including a keylogger that records user names and passwords that are typed on the computer’s keyboard and then transmits that information to the phishing thief.

"By string manipulation, in this case, adding a dash to the actual domain name of the actual site, unknowing users are easily made to believe that the bogus site is legitimate, making them most likely to click on the link," said Jovi Umawing, a researcher with Trend Micro Inc. in a separate warning that it issued.

The U.S. Tax Court currently has the following notice posted on its Web site:

“The United States Tax Court has received many telephone calls regarding an e-mail which purports to originate from the Court being sent by a member of the Tax Court’s practitioner bar. This message is an example of “Spear Phishing,” which is an e-mail spoofing attempt that targets a specific organization. The Tax Court is not disseminating any e-mail notice to anyone who currently has a case before this Court.”

Last modified on 29 May 2008
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