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September 5, 2014

NSA backed encryption standard being used in phishing attacks

JavaScript implementation of US government cryptography is protecting scammers.

By Jimmy Nicholls

Phishers are making use of the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) to conceal the malicious nature of their websites, according to security firm Symantec.

Victims are exposed to dynamically written phishing content said to be generated almost instantly through a JavaScript AES implementation, frustrating analysis of phishing sites.

Nick Johnston of Symantec said: "This technique may be a first, albeit basic, attempt at using AES to obfuscate phishing sites.

"There is no attempt made to hide the key or otherwise conceal what is going on. However, we expect that as phishing detection matures further and improves in effectiveness, attacks like this will become more sophisticated."

The AES was adopted by the US government in 2002, and is used by the National Security Agency (NSA) to protect classified information in systems approved by the snooping group.

Phishers have long been trying to hide their phishing attempts through various forms of encryption, including other JavaScript tools and data uniform resource identifiers, similar to a URL but without address information.

They have also made use of escape characters, which are used as part of URLs to avoid the misinterpretation of certain characters, for example by substituting a space for "%20".

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