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Fresh Phishing Scam Aims at Google Account Passwords

The data URI scheme allows scammers to include data in-line in web pages as if they were external resources
The data URI scheme allows scammers to include data in-line in web pages as if they were external resources

“With access to users’ Google accounts, hackers can buy apps on Google Play, hijack Google+ accounts and access confidential Google Drive documents,” said Catalin Cosoi, chief security strategist at Bitdefender, in a statement sent to Infosecurity. “The scam starts with an email allegedly sent by Google, with ‘Mail Notice’ or ‘New Lockout Notice’ as a subject.”

The mail is rife with misplaced capitalizations: “This is a reminder that your email account will be locked out in 24 hours,” the e-mail reads. “Due to not being able to increase your Email storage Quota. Go to the INSTANT INCREASE to increase your Email storage automatically.”

When clicking the “instant increase” link, users are redirected to a Google login web page that imitates the authentic one and asks for their credentials.

“What is interesting about this phishing attack is that users end up having the “data:” in their browser’s address bar, which indicates the use of a data URI scheme,” said Cosoi.

The data URI scheme allows scammers to include data in-line in web pages as if they were external resources. The scheme uses Base64 encoding to represent file contents, in this case supplying the content of the fake web page in an encoded string within the data URI.

As Google Chrome doesn’t show the whole string, regular users have a hard time figuring out they are targeted in a phishing attack and may give their data to cybercriminals.

As ever, users should be vigilant. “Scammers usually pose as services that contact people by email for announcements or notifications,” Bitdefender noted. “Google, Facebook, eBay, phone services and financial institutions are among phishers’ favorite disguises to invade inboxes worldwide.”

A similar attack recently targeted Google Drive’s landing page to grab Gmail credentials, Cosoi added.