Friday, February 26, 2010

Phishing for AdSense - or How Not to Get Hacked

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In recent weeks I have noticed an increase in spam email coming into my mail accounts. In particular, these emails are purported to be from:


To date, none of them have actually been from any of those places, except the most recent one. They have been from spammers and scammers who hope someone will click a link in the email. Once clicked, the link will take a person to a page that is most likely set up to resemble a real page from any of those places, however, any sign in information you enter will be captured and used by the scammer.

How Will a Spammer/Scammer/Phisher Use My Information

If you use AdSense, they'll have the information to login to your AdSense account and redirect your earnings to themselves, or the information close out your account, or to do anything you can do in your AdSense account.

If you use Blogger, they'll have access to all your blogs. This means they can edit or change them, including putting their own adsense codes on your blog and removing yours. Most likely they are hoping your blogger login information is the same as your AdSense login. And it probably is.

With the Google account they can login to any service you use under Google.

What To Do When You Get An Email From any Google Source

The first thing you should do - don't panic. These guys often send emails saying your AdSense account has been disabled, and telling you to click the link to have it restored. The same sort of email is also used for Blogger accounts. Whatever you do, don't click any links in an email, even if you think it's from AdSense. Find out first who it's really from.

AdSense may indeed send you an email that your account is disabled, if it really is. And they do contain links, but usually the link leads only to a page on the AdSense Help Center.

The next thing you should do is check the header information. If you use gmail for your login you can show the header information by opening the email.

If you use the newer version of gmail, there is a link near the top and off to the right a little that says "show details".

When you click that, gmail will display the information in the email headers.

Check the information in the "From" and "Reply To" fields, as well as the "mailed by" and "signed-by" fields.

If you are still not certain, go the help forum and ask for help deciphering whether or not it's "really" from AdSense or Google or Blogger. Be sure to use the appropriate forum - if the email says it's from Blogger, use the Blogger help forum, if it says it's from AdSense, use the AdSense help forum.

When you are unsure - under no circumstances should you click any link in the email.

You can check the link by using the google safe browsing diagnostic page for the link. You do that by typing this string in the search bar and appending it with the page named in the link below - the link below is using the url for the blog you are reading now:

Change the part in red to the page url in the email link.

The linked page in the email used in the example above can be seen below:

This tool will tell you whether or not the site is hosting any malware or has been seen in the past to hold any malware.

Other things you can do are to copy the link from your email and enter it into your browser search bar. This will take you to the page that the link goes to, where you can see the information on the page.

Look at the page carefully and note it's location displayed in the browser. In the case of the email I used as an example, the browser displays the following URL ("x" replaces the real information to protect the innocent):

You can see that this URL goes to a secure google accounts login page for the Google Ad Planner.

If you are still uncomfortable about clicking anything on this page, then leave the page and navigate on your own to your Google Accounts page the way you normally would. Click on the service link from your own Google Accounts page (for wherever the email is from - Blogger or AdSense) and login from there.

Take Charge of Your Own Security

Never click links in an email without first ensuring it's security.
Use safe browsing ad-ons or plug-ins to avoid phishing or malware sites.
Use pop-up blockers to prevent scam ads from showing.
Read and investigate things before you sign up or click any links.

Places You can Find Help with Security Issues

"What The Tech Forums" - trustworthy and helpful with useful free software listings

"Safer Networking Forums" - also trustworthy will some excellent free software on site

"Google Search Help" - helpful information in their Help Center for safe surfing & browsing.

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