No relief from Microsoft phishing bug

Wednesday, 14 January 2004, 3:12 AM EST

Tuesday's edition of Microsoft's monthly bundle of security advisories features an omission that should keep online fraud artists and identity thieves happy: over one month after its discovery, there is no official patch available for a bug in Internet Explorer that lets swindlers pass off counterfeit websites as the real thing.

The bug, publicly detailed on December 9th by "Zap the Dingbat," is an easily exploited flaw in the way Internet Explorer displays URLs in the address bar: it turns out the browser is incapable of displaying the special character "%01," or anything following it, in a Web address.

That simple gaffe is tailor-made for the devious online swindle called "phishing," in which a fraudster spams the Internet with e-mail purporting to be from a reputable financial institution or e-commerce site, and urging the recipient to click on an included link to update their personal profile or carry out some transaction. The link takes the victim to a fake website designed -- with increasing sophistication -- to look like the real deal, but where any personal or financial information entered is routed directly to the scammer.

By Kevin Poulsen at SecurityFocus.

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