Language Pattern Analysis to Detect Social Network Attacks

Sontiq BreachIQ Data Breach Report: Week of Nov. 22 · Is Ransomware a Technology Pandemic in the Making? 8 Security Developments to be Thankful

Attacks by scammers appear to make sophisticated use of language ideology to abuse trust relationships. Language that indexes Africans allows perceived “authenticity” to be constructed in a way that breaks down a victims’ defenses — a variety of linguistic devices are used as attack tools.

Much of the success of a cross-cultural scam therefore comes from the ways in which attackers seem able to take advantage of victims’ ethnic, racial, religious, and especially linguistic stereotypes. The scams invite people to empathize and assist someone foreign in a struggle to save their heritage or their health. Victims are lured into the most remarkable investment opportunities as scammers portray themselves as hapless victims of interethnic warfare, or as simple bank clerks who have discovered unclaimed fortunes. The trusting individuals who embark on interethnic adventures soon find their bank accounts plundered, their life savings gone.

We propose use of language pattern analysis to help. Applying the tools of linguistic anthropology to a collection of five years’ worth of “African” scam email messages, we believe we have discovered a pattern for many of the linguistic and cultural devices through which the relevant stereotypes are accessed.

This paper discusses the linguistic pattern used by scammers, revealing language ideologies in question. It also demonstrates how linguistic anthropology can be applied to the challenge of developing linguistically and culturally adaptive controls for communication security.

Full 2006 paper (PDF updated Nov 2021): ottenheimer_Urgent-Confidential

 

Hackers hit Robinhood (HOOD) Biggest Brokerage Vishing Attack | efani

Vishing attack update: The call was coming from inside the company. Or so it seemed when the mobile phone of a customer-service representative for Robinhood Markets Inc. lit up on the evening of Nov. 3, 2021.

More than an hour passed and the conversation went on and on. The caller reeled in the hapless employee. By the time it was over, that one Robinhood rep had unwittingly handed over keys to the personal information of about 7 million customers. this is believed to be one of the biggest retail brokerage cyber-breaches of all time just by the number of accounts affected.

Robinhood didn’t learn of the lapse until the rep got home and told a relative about the strange call. That was when the rep was promptly advised to escalate it, according to a person familiar with the matter. Only then did the employee inform the company, whose free trading app caught fire with young people buying meme stocks, options and crypto during the pandemic, at times with devastating results.

Robinhood declined to comment on the agent’s performance. It said separately that, to its knowledge, no Social Security numbers or data about debit cards or bank accounts were compromised. Nor did customers incur financial losses, according to the firm.

Other technology companies have fallen victim to vishing attacks. In July 2020, for instance, hackers manipulated several popular Twitter accounts, including those of Joe Biden, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos, Jack Dorsey, and used the information to target employees with access to account-support tools.

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