Pharming Out-Scams Phishing
Source: - Posted by Vincenzo Ciaglia   
Hacks/Cracks First came phishing scams, in which con artists hooked unwary internet users one by one into compromising their personal data. Now the latest cyberswindle, pharming, threatens to reel in entire schools of victims. Pharmers simply redirect as many users as possible from the legitimate commercial websites they'd intended to visit and lead them to malicious ones. The bogus sites, to which victims are redirected without their knowledge or consent, will likely look the same as a genuine site. But when users enter their login name and password, the information is captured by criminals.

"Phishing is to pharming what a guy with a rod and a reel is to a Russian trawler. Phishers have to approach their targets one by one. Pharmers can scoop up many victims in a single pass," said Chris Risley, president and chief executive officer of Nominum, a provider of IP address infrastructure technology for businesses.

E-mailed viruses that rewrite local host files on individual PCs, like the Banker Trojan, have been used to conduct smaller-scale pharming attacks. Host files convert standard URLs into the numeric strings a computer understands. A computer with a compromised host file will go to the wrong website even if a user types in the correct URL.

The most alarming pharming threat is DNS poisoning, which can cause a large group of users to be herded to bogus sites. DNS -- the domain name system -- translates web and e-mail addresses into numerical strings, acting as a sort of telephone directory for the internet. If a DNS directory is "poisoned" -- altered to contain false information regarding which web address is associated with what numeric string -- users can be silently shuttled to a bogus website even if they type in the correct URL.

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