Watch out for Adobe phishing scams

Some tips to help identify malicious emails and avoid becoming a victim of a phishing scam claiming to be from Adobe.

There are phishing scams out there targeting Adobe users. Make sure you know how to recognize and avoid these threats when they arrive in your Inbox.

For some time now, Adobe has been a primary target of malware developers and malicious attacks. Adobe software like Acrobat, Reader, and Flash is virtually ubiquitous across all computing platforms and architectures (with the notable exception of Flash on iOS), and Adobe is less mature from a security perspective than seasoned veterans like Microsoft.

Adobe has been struck recently by back-to-back zero-day flaws in Adobe Flash. One of those Flash zero-days was exploited by attackers to gain access to the RSA Security network and compromise sensitive information. To put it bluntly, there is ample reason for IT admins and consumers to be on high alert for security updates from Adobe.

That is weak spot that Adobe phishing scams seek to exploit. Rather than digging for security flaws and developing exploits against the software itself, the phishing scams simply prey on the heightened awareness of Adobe security issues, and the frequent security updates from Adobe to lure unsuspecting users into installing software that enables the attacker to execute other malicious code and essentially own the victim's PC.

I received one such phishing scam just this morning. To me, it is obvious that it is not legitimate, and I dismiss it immediately as a phishing scam, but others may not be so savvy, so let's look at some of the clues. First, Adobe is not in the habit of emailing me to tell me about new updates to the software I use. There is an auto-update mechanism within the software that lets me know when new versions are available.

Next, the email is from "adobesystems.com" rather than simply "adobe.com". Attackers frequently use domain names that are similar to, or include the name of the legitimate domain they are attempting to spoof. But, close or similar are not the same as the real thing, so it stands out.

Then, we have the obligatory broken English and poor grammar that seem to afflict all phishing attacks, and the fact that the email refers to "Adobe PDF Reader", and "Adobe Acrobat Reader", but doesn't ever really specify if it is related to Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Reader X. Add in the domain for the download link being "2011-adobe-acrobat-download.com" and the bizarre copyright at the bottom which claims the email is from 2010, and it all seems quite obvious that this is not really an update notification from Adobe.

Still, many users are naive enough to fall for something like this, which is why phishing attacks continue to be such a huge threat. Adobe has a blog post regarding these phishing scams which explains that users should simply delete any email message which appears to be suspicious or malicious in any way.

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Tags spamantispamsecurityvirusesMicrosoftrsa securityphishingmalware

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Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)

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