We see lots of phishing attempts for email credentials. This one is no different to hundreds that we regularly receive. It pretends to be a message from IT support telling you that your mailbox is nearly full and you need to log in to optimise it.
I wouldn’t normally post such a common email or even do anything with it, except report to the anti-phishing sites to get it blocked and try to inform the site owners that they are compromised.
However this example illustrates the difficulties “normal”, everyday victims of these phishing attacks suffer. In this case the “experts” had difficulty determining that is was phishing and took a couple of emails back & forth before it was accepted.
This Twitter thread shows some of the difficulties
— My Online Security (@dvk01uk) April 21, 2017
Note: I am not criticising Netcraft, their employees or their current methods of detecting phishing. It is purely to illustrate the difficulty the average recipient of these sort of emails has and why they do become victims.
They use email addresses and subjects that will entice a user to read the email and open the attachment. A very high proportion are being targeted at small and medium size businesses, with the hope of getting a better response than they do from consumers.
Remember many email clients, especially on a mobile phone or tablet, only show the Name in the From: and not the bit in <domain.com >. That is why these scams and phishes work so well.
I don’t have the full original email ( who it came from etc) because it was forwarded to a security mailing list that I subscribe to, because the company receiving them had been flooded with similar ones ( unusually). I have obviously removed all identifying details of the company or its employees.
The from box is generally from a generic email address like IT Support < support @outlook.com > or < firstname.lastname@example.org> where the address is totally spoofed
Storage Limit Exceeded, Optimize Now!
5789MB Current Size 6000MB Maximum size
Please be informed your account, “email@example.com” is approaching it’s storage limit. To avoid loss of your mailbox data, Kindly optimize the storage bytes of your mailbox by account verification. Your account will be optimized and your pending incoming mails will be released from our servers automatically sequel to your identity confirmation. Please follow the link below to continue….. Click here to add storage bytes. This email has been sent from automated box that does not accept incoming mails. DO NOT REPLY. Thanks. Support Team. Webmail Inc. Copyright 2017. All rights reserved.
If you follow the link in the email you see a webpage looking like this: http://decc.espe.edu.ec/wp-content/uploads/wp-includes/certificates/Owafirstname.lastname@example.org
After you input your email address and password, you get forwarded immediately to the genuine O365 /Outlook Webapp login pages
There is also a webshell on the compromised server
We all get very blasé about phishing and think we know so much that we will never fall for a phishing attempt. Don’t assume that all attempts are obvious. Watch for any site that invites you to enter ANY personal or financial information. It might be an email that says “you have won a prize” or “sign up to this website for discounts, prizes and special offers”
Please read our How to protect yourselves page for simple, sensible advice on how to avoid being infected by this sort of socially engineered malware.
All of these emails use Social engineering tricks to persuade you to open the attachments that come with the email. Whether it is a message saying “look at this picture of me I took last night” and it appears to come from a friend or is more targeted at somebody who regularly is likely to receive PDF attachments or Word .doc attachments or any other common file that you use every day. Or whether it is a straight forward attempt, like this one, to steal your personal, bank, credit card or email and social networking log in details. Be very careful when unzipping them and make sure you have “show known file extensions enabled“, And then look carefully at the unzipped file. If it says .EXE then it is a problem and should not be run or opened.