CEOs on Facebook easy to dupe, says researcher

Security vendor poses as school chum, gleans data for 'spear phishing' attacks

Corporate executives should think twice about the information they disclose on social networking sites such as Facebook, a Hong Kong-based security company warned Friday after duping gullible CEOs and finance directors into revealing personal details that could be used for so-called spear-phishing attacks.

Network Box, which makes and sells threat prevention appliances, recently conducted an experiment to see how difficult it is to glean important information from business executives.

"We were asked to see if we could gain information about individuals without having a real-life link to them," said Simon Heron, Network Box's managing director, in an e-mail. "We used a fake Web mail account to create a fake Facebook account. With this, we approached individuals who we knew to be in quite senior positions and simply asked to be their friends, explaining that we knew them while at school."

The results would make an identity thief proud. Several of the targets, explained Heron, gladly accepted the request from the bogus "friend," giving Network Box access to their profiles, which in turn could be mined for the kind of personal information necessary to make very targeted phishing e-mails convincing.

"We found personal details, including dates of birth, mobile phone numbers, home addresses, company name and job titles, and even [a] mother's date of birth," said Heron. "If [you] wanted to go spear phishing, knowing your prey has money is key, as well as how to target them. If you know they are a CEO or [finance director], then you know they will be vulnerable about getting complaints about the company. We can then target them to download documents with malicious code embedded or get them to visit an infected site."

Criminals will go to great lengths to obtain the information they need to craft a spear-phishing attack, if only because the targets -- high-profile company executives who have access to a firm's most important secrets or data -- are so lucrative. One of the most egregious examples of spear phishing in the last year was the follow-on spam campaign that cybercrooks launched after looting Monster.com's database, making off with information on 1.3 million people who had posted resumes on the popular job search Web site.

Heron recommended that executives steer clear of all social networking sites, and that companies remind all employees to refrain from posting company information on such places.

"Any con can be a lot more successful if the con artist has personal information about the target," Heron concluded.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Gregg Keizer

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Bang and Olufsen Beosound Stage - Dolby Atmos Soundbar

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

ASUS ROG, ACRONYM partner for Special Edition Zephyrus G14

Learn more >

Nakamichi Delta 100 3-Way Hi Fi Speaker System

Learn more >

Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Philips Sonicare Diamond Clean 9000 Toothbrush

Learn more >

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit for Nintendo Switch

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Teac 7 inch Swivel Screen Portable DVD Player

Learn more >

SunnyBunny Snowflakes 20 LED Solar Powered Fairy String

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?