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Google Blacklist Breakdown

Michael Sutton has a good writeup on the Google blacklist that he released today. He sort of went over the obvious stats, who’s getting phished the most, where the phishers are hosting, etc… So for the most part it wasn’t that interesting to me personally (but I’ve been in this business for years). However, one thing did make me think. Michael mentioned that the lack of sophistication points towards the lack of need for sophistication.

Like any stats person would do, I had to think about what that really means. Is it that they don’t require sophistication or is it that they can’t achieve it. Who is building the phishing kits that they buy? Are these people the world’s best programmers? Are they going to build something that’s in vogue for a few days (a 0day browser exploit) only to have to re-code it a few days later when the patch roles?

Just like in any business the name of the game is scalability. You have to build a scalable product for as cheaply as possible. Just because x% people have anti-phishing in their browser doesn’t mean you don’t put it up. That’s like saying if you’re McDonalds you don’t want to stay in business because a certain slice of the population cares about early heart disease. Who cares? If it makes you money that’s all that’s important. Sophistication is not a current requirement for their business model. The scary thing is that with technology that is years old they are only now encountering tools that even put a dent in their business model.

That lack of sophistication in our own tools to detect and take down phishing sites is the real issue here. We (browser companies, AV companies, ISPs) have not created enough damage to their business to force them to adopt next generation tactics. So although they may have the arms necessary to fight a nuclear war, they don’t have to, because we’re still fighting with bows and arrows. They haven’t even scratched the surface of technical sophistication in their phishing attacks. And who could blame them? There’s no cost incentive to do so. We haven’t created that incentive yet.

One Response to “Google Blacklist Breakdown”

  1. Michael Says:

    I’ve posted a follow-up article to the Google Blacklist post that you’d blogged about. After that post I received several questions about a separate encoded/hashed blacklist that Google also maintains which is about 14x larger than the plaintext blacklist which was the subject of the initial blog. Anyway, I spent some time learning about the structure and have made the following entry discussing what it’s purpose is and how it can be decrypted.…