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#69 - 10/15/07 01:04 PM E-MAIL HARVESTING
Michael45 Administrator Offline
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Registered: 10/12/07
Posts: 803
Loc: San Antonio, TX
How many of you have received e-mails of jokes, funny pictures, or even prayers.
Sound familiar?
Some of these are harmless e-mails entended to brighten up your day, but watch out.
These seemingly innocent e-mails are a scammer/spammers paradise.
Forwarding these emails to everyone on your e-mail list leaves a trail of e-mail addresses ripe for the pickings of spammers.
Once they copy an past those e-mail addresses to their lists, you will start receiving unsolicited e-mails and for the life of you, you cannot figure out how they got your e-mail address.
This unwanted spam can clog up your mail box with anything from pornography to pharmacuticals.

The next time you wish to forward a message, make sure you take out the forwarding e-mail addresses and just copy the text to be forwarded.
This will cut down on the lists that spammers can get ahold of.

Michael
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#177 - 10/25/07 08:31 PM Re: E-MAIL HARVESTING [Re: Michael45]
Michael45 Administrator Offline
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Registered: 10/12/07
Posts: 803
Loc: San Antonio, TX
There are many ways in which spammers can get your email address. The ones I know of are:

1. From posts to UseNet with your email address.
Spammers regularily scan UseNet for email address, using ready made programs designed to do so. Some programs just look at articles headers which contain email address (From:, Reply-To:, etc), while other programs check the articles’ bodies, starting with programs that look at signatures, through programs that take everything that contain a ‘@’ character and attempt to demunge munged email addresses.

There have been reports of spammers demunging email addresses on occasions, ranging from demunging a single address for purposes of revenge spamming to automatic methods that try to unmunge email addresses that were munged in some common ways, e.g. remove such strings as ‘nospam’ from email addresses.

As people who where spammed frequently report that spam frequency to their mailbox dropped sharply after a period in which they did not post to UseNet, as well as evidence to spammers’ chase after ‘fresh’ and ‘live’ addresses, this technique seems to be the primary source of email addresses for spammers.

2. From mailing lists.
Spammers regularily attempt to get the lists of subscribers to mailing lists [some mail servers will give those upon request], knowing that the email addresses are unmunged and that only a few of the addresses are invalid.

When mail servers are configured to refuse such requests, another trick might be used - spammers might send an email to the mailing list with the headers Return-Receipt-To: or X-Confirm-Reading-To: . Those headers would cause some mail transfer agents and reading programs to send email back to the saying that the email was delivered to / read at a given email address, divulging it to spammers.

A different technique used by spammers is to request a mailing lists server to give him the list of all mailing lists it carries (an option implemented by some mailing list servers for the convenience of legitimate users), and then send the spam to the mailing list’s address, leaving the server to do the hard work of forwarding a copy to each subscribed email address.

[I know spammers use this trick from bad experience - some spammer used this trick on the list server of the company for which I work, easily covering most of the employees, including employees working well under a month and whose email addresses would be hard to find in other ways.]

3. From web pages.
Spammers have programs which spider through web pages, looking for email addresses, e.g. email addresses contained in mailto: HTML tags [those you can click on and get a mail window opened]

Some spammers even target their mail based on web pages. I’ve discovered a web page of mine appeared in Yahoo as some spammer harvested email addresses from each new page appearing in Yahoo and sent me a spam regarding that web page.

A widely used technique to fight this technique is the ‘poison’ CGI script. The script creates a page with several bogus email addresses and a link to itself. Spammers’ software visiting the page would harvest the bogus email addresses and follow up the link, entering an infinite loop polluting their lists with bogus email addresses.

For more information about the poision script, see
http://www.monkeys.com/wpoison/

4. From various web and paper forms.
Some sites request various details via forms, e.g. guest books & registrations forms. Spammers can get email addresses from those either because the form becomes available on the world wide web, or because the site sells / gives the emails list to others.

Some companies would sell / give email lists filled in on paper forms, e.g. organizers of conventions would make a list of participants’ email addresses, and sell it when it’s no longer needed.

Some spammers would actually type E-mail addresses from printed material, e.g. professional directories & conference proceedings.
Domain name registration forms are a favourite as well - addresses are most usually correct and updated, and people read the emails sent to them expecting important messages.

5. Via an Ident daemon.
Many unix computers run a daemon (a program which runs in the background, initiated by the system administrator), intended to allow other computers to identify people who connect to them.

When a person surfs from such a computer connects to a web site or news server, the site or server can connect the person’s computer back and ask that daemon’s for the person’s email address.

Some chat clients on PCs behave similarily, so using IRC can cause an email address to be given out to spammers.

6. From a web browser.
Some sites use various tricks to extract a surfer’s email address from the web browser, sometimes without the surfer noticing it.


Those techniques include :

Making the browser fetch one of the page’s images through an anonymous FTP connection to the site. Some browsers would give the email address the user has configured into the browser as the password for the anonymous FTP account. A surfer not aware of this technique will not notice that the email address has leaked.
Using JavaScript to make the browser send an email to a chosen email address with the email address configured into the browser. Some browsers would allow email to be sent when the mouse passes over some part of a page. Unless the browser is properly configured, no warning will be issued.
Using the HTTP_FROM header that browsers send to the server. Some browsers pass a header with your email address to every web server you visit. To check if your browser simply gives your email address to everybody this way, visit http://www.privacy.net/analyze/
It’s worth noting here that when one reads E-mail with a browser (or any mail reader that understands HTML), the reader should be aware of active content (Java applets, Javascript, VB, etc) as well as web bugs.

An E-mail containing HTML may contain a script that upon being read (or even the subject being highlighted) automatically sends E-mail to any E-mail addresses. A good example of this case is the Melissa virus. Such a script could send the spammer not only the reader’s E-mail address but all the addresses on the reader’s address book.

http://www.cert.org/advisories/CA-99-04-Melissa-Macro-Virus.html

A web bugs FAQ by Richard M. Smith can be read at http://www.tiac.net/users/smiths/privacy/wbfaq.htm

7. From IRC and chat rooms.
Some IRC clients will give a user’s email address to anyone who cares to ask it. Many spammers harvest email addresses from IRC, knowing that those are ‘live’ addresses and send spam to those email addresses.

This method is used beside the annoying IRCbots that send messages interactively to IRC and chat rooms without attempting to recognize who is participating in the first place.

This is another major source of email addresses for spammers, especially as this is one of the first public activities newbies join, making it easy for spammers to harvest ‘fresh’ addresses of people who might have very little experience dealing with spam.

AOL chat rooms are the most popular of those - according to reports there’s a utility that can get the screen names of participants in AOL chat rooms. The utility is reported to be specialized for AOL due to two main reasons - AOL makes the list of the actively participating users’ screen names available and AOL users are considered prime targets by spammers due to the reputation of AOL as being the ISP of choice by newbies.

8. From finger daemons.
Some finger daemons are set to be very friendly - a finger query asking for john@host will produce list info including login names for all people named John on that host. A query for @host will produce a list of all currently logged-on users.

Spammers use this information to get extensive users list from hosts, and of active accounts - ones which are ‘live’ and will read their mail soon enough to be really attractive spam targets.

9. AOL profiles.
Spammers harvest AOL names from user profiles lists, as it allows them to ‘target’ their mailing lists. Also, AOL has a name being the choice ISP of newbies, who might not know how to recognize scams or know how to handle spam.

10. From domain contact points.
Every domain has one to three contact points - administration, technical, and billing. The contact point includes the email address of the contact person.

As the contact points are freely available, e.g. using the ‘whois’ command, spammers harvest the email addresses from the contact points for lists of domains (the list of domain is usually made available to the public by the domain registries). This is a tempting methods for spammers, as those email addresses are most usually valid and mail sent to it is being read regularily.

11. By guessing & cleaning.
Some spammers guess email addresses, send a test message (or a real spam) to a list which includes the guessed addresses. Then they wait for either an error message to return by email, indicating that the email address is correct, or for a confirmation. A confirmation could be solicited by inserting non-standard but commonly used mail headers requesting that the delivery system and/or mail client send a confirmation of delivery or reading. No news are, of coures, good news for the spammer.

Specifically, the headers are -
Return-Receipt-To: Send a delivery confirmation
X-Confirm-Reading-To: Send a reading confirmation

Guessing could be done based on the fact that email addresses are based on people’s names, usually in commonly used ways (first.last@domain or an initial of one name followed / preceded by the other @domain)

Also, some email addresses are standard - postmaster is mandated by the RFCs for internet mail. Other common email addresses are postmaster, hostmaster, root [for unix hosts], etc.

12. From white & yellow pages.
There are various sites that serve as white pages, sometimes named people finders web sites. Yellow pages now have an email directory on the web.

Those white/yellow pages contain addresses from various sources, e.g. from UseNet, but sometimes your E-mail address will be registered for you. Example - HotMail will add E-mail addresses to BigFoot by default, making new addresses available to the public.

Spammers go through those directories in order to get email addresses. Most directories prohibit email address harvesting by spammers, but as those databases have a large databases of email addresses + names, it’s a tempting target for spammers.

13. By having access to the same computer.
If a spammer has an access to a computer, he can usually get a list of valid usernames (and therefore email addresses) on that computer.

On unix computers the users file (/etc/passwd) is commonly world readable, and the list of currently logged-in users is listed via the ‘who’ command.

14. From a previous owner of the email address.
An email address might have been owned by someone else, who disposed of it. This might happen with dialup usernames at ISPs - somebody signs up for an ISP, has his/her email address harvested by spammers, and cancel the account. When somebody else signs up with the same ISP with the same username, spammers already know of it.

Similar things can happen with AOL screen names - somebody uses a screen name, gets tired of it, releases it. Later on somebody else might take the same screen name.

15. Using social engineering.
This method means the spammer uses a hoax to convince people into giving him valid E-mail addresses.

A good example is Richard Douche’s “Free CD’s” chain letter. The letter promises a free CD for every person to whom the letter is forwarded to as long as it is CC’ed to Richard.

Richard claimed to be associated with Amazon and Music blvd, among other companies, who authorized him to make this offer. Yet he supplied no references to web pages and used a free E-mail address.

All Richard wanted was to get people to send him valid E-mail addresses in order to build a list of addresses to spam and/or sell.

16. Buying lists from others.
This one covers two types of trades. The first type consists of buying a list of email addresses (often on CD) that were harvested via other methods, e.g. someone harvesting email addresses from UseNet and sells the list either to a company that wishes to advertise via email (sometimes passing off the list as that of people who opted-in for emailed advertisements) or to others who resell the list.

The second type consists of a company who got the email addresses legitimately (e.g. a magazine that asks subscribers for their email in order to keep in touch over the Internet) and sells the list for the extra income. This extends to selling of email addresses a company got via other means, e.g. people who just emailed the company with inquiries in any context.

17. By hacking into sites.
I’ve heard rumours that sites that supply free email addresses were hacked in order to get the list of email addresses, somewhat like e-commerce sites being hacked to get a list of credit cards.

http://www.windowsecurity.com/whitepapers/Email_Harvesting_Techniques_FAQ.html

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#212 - 10/27/07 12:43 AM Re: E-MAIL HARVESTING [Re: Michael45]
Michael45 Administrator Offline
Admin
old hand


Registered: 10/12/07
Posts: 803
Loc: San Antonio, TX
E-mail Harvesting

Have you ever heard of the term "e-mail harvesting" before? I know some of you have, because I've gotten e-mails and phone calls from you about it. Well, whether you do or you don't, it's an important term to be familiar with and that's exactly what I'm going to go over with you today. Obviously, e-mail harvesting has to do with your e-mail, but in what ways does it affect it? How will you know if you've been caught by it? Those are just a couple of questions we will go over in this tip, along with some other "good to know" facts. Here we go!

Basically, e-mail harvesting is the process of gathering up e-mail addresses in order to use them for bulk e-mailing purposes, which are usually considered to be spam. In other words, there are people (usually spammers) who go and purchase lists of e-mail addresses so that they can send their spam e-mails out to several users all at the same time. And what makes it even worse is that when a spammer is done with one list, they go out and trade it for other lists and so on. It's just a big circle that can go on and on. As you can see, that's where the term comes in, because the spammers are just constantly harvesting off innocent users.

There are several methods of e-mail harvesting and the one I mentioned above is just the beginning. Spammers also use special software called harvesting bots to obtain e-mail addresses from certain Web sites and other online sources. They are also known to use a method of offering a special product or service for free, as long as the user provides a valid e-mail address. They then collect all of those addresses and include them with the bulk mailings. Spammers have even gone as far as guessing e-mail addresses just by coming up with common usernames and domain names. Obviously, spammers have profound ways of getting ahold of what they want, but you can keep yourself safe by using a very unique e-mail address (one they can't guess) and just by staying away from any unusual offers, etc. you may come across. Just keep your eyes open, use some common sense and you should be safe against the e-mail harvesting attacks. Yes!

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#1363 - 12/31/07 04:37 PM Re: E-MAIL HARVESTING [Re: Michael45]
SCAMcanner Offline
stranger


Registered: 12/31/07
Posts: 1
Loc: WI
Finally explained in plain english! I was wondering what to do I have created so many email accounts that all have so much spam on them now I need a new one, you can bet that I will not make the same mistakes I did before, now that I can finally get to the root of the problem emails.
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