Recently, phishers have been creating public documents and forms via cloud computing resources to harvest email addresses and associated passwords. Cloud computing allows people to access, create, and save personal files remotely without downloading software or purchasing licensing rights, as with a word processor.
Internet security firms uncovered a recent bout of spam email messages warning the recipients that they have exceeded their email account’s storage space. They are then instructed to follow a link to confirm their account’s validity by entering their email address and password into a Google Doc. Failure to comply will allegedly result in the closing of their email account–an age-old tactic built in to phishing ploys.
The Google Docs that harvest the personal information were created via cloud computing resources, for free. The advantage is an immediate air of legitimacy. Unsuspecting victims see a real Google Doc, with valid links to information about the program and cloud computing resources right on the page. The phishing ploy is located at the recognizable address spreadsheets.google.docs. Even somewhat savvy users can be fooled, as these cloud pages are displayed at an https:// address, which is for many web users a signal that the page is safe and secure.
Those who enter their email address and password into the provided fields on the Google Doc form and press submit send this information directly to the phishers.
Common sense should still win out if you receive one of these emails leading to a phisher’s cloud page. The emails contain most of the hallmarks of spam. They have typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors. The emails are impersonally addressed to “User,” “Account Holder,” or other vague terms. Likewise, they include impersonal signatures such as “System Administrator” and “System Administrator Center.” Links contained in the body of the email go to a different domain than the email was sent from.
Keep in mind that no email service providers will request that you enter your password anywhere other than the sign-in page to your account. Also, they won’t make random threats to close your account for exceeding a storage limit or other ridiculous reason.
It’s now important that the same skepticism you apply to email messages be employed when visiting web pages hosted on cloud computing servers, too. Certainly this is only the beginning of a new online security concern. Spammers, phishers, and other cybercriminals will undoubtedly continually find new and creative ways to defraud careless and unsuspecting web users via cloud computing resources.