SCAM ALERT: Corporate Executives Target of Identity Theft Schemes

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Identity Theft Smash & Grab, CEO Style

Tens of thousands of corporate executives were the target of a series of identity-theft scams this week, e-mail-borne schemes that appear to have netted close to 2,000 victims so far.

Early Monday morning, according to two security experts with firsthand knowledge of the attacks, nearly 20,000 executives received an e-mail purporting to be a subpoena ordering each recipient to appear in court for legal violations leveled against their company. The messages addressed each executive by name, and included their phone number and the name of their company.

Recipients who clicked the link were brought to a Web page that claimed they needed to install a Web browser add-on in order to view the subpoena. Those who agreed were shown an Adobe PDF document that referenced a lawsuit filed in a California district court.

The "add-on" in question was a component designed to steal usernames and passwords when the victim subsequently visited an online bank site or other page that requires those credentials (the malicious add-on only installed for users visiting the site with Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser). Approximately half of the recipients of the e-mail messages were executives at major financial institutions.

These types of targeted attacks are hardly uncommon, as cyber crime has grown more sophisticated and criminals more successful in stealing money from average home Internet users and businesses. But what distinguishes this week's attacks is that they have been hugely successful even though the methods employed by the cyber criminals directing them rank near the bottom of the scale in terms of sophistication and stealth. MORE

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