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Google Apps users warned of Red Cross phishing threat

19 Jan 2013
Concept image of URL bar and fishing hook representing phishing

Security experts are warning users to be vigilant following the discovery of a new phishing operation which targets Google Apps.

Researchers at Sophos said that the attack poses as a Google log-in screen and is hosted on what appears to be a compromised page within the Ethiopian Red Cross site.

According to Sophos, the attack arrives in the target's inbox as an unsolicited note about a supposed order. The message asks the user to log into what they claim is a Google Docs hosted document in order to review an invoice.

When the user clicks on the link, however, they are redirected to a phishing site designed to resemble the Google Docs log-in screen. The page then asks the user to enter log-in credentials which are presumably harvested by attacker to perform account hijackings.

What is most peculiar about the attack, however, is its choice of host domain. Researchers believe that the phishing page is the result of a breach on the Ethiopian Red Cross website.

"At first glance, you might imagine you are logging into Google Docs to see the content from the email's sender - but a closer examination of the URL bar reveals that this isn't Google at all that you're visiting, but instead a phishing page hidden away on the Ethiopian Red Cross Society's website," Sophos senior technology consultant Graham Cluley wrote in a blog post.

"Of course, you shouldn't enter your credentials on the page - as they are likely to end up in the hands of cybercriminals."

The sites of government agencies, nonprofits and educational institutions have in the past been popular targets for breaches which can lead to the uploading of phishing pages. Users are advised to avoid clicking links in unsolicited email messages and check the URL address of any page which asks for log-in credentials.

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Shaun Nichols

Shaun Nichols is the US correspondent for He has been with the company since 2006, originally joining as a news intern at the site's San Francisco offices.

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