Two researchers who set up doppelganger domains to mimic legitimate domains belonging to Fortune 500 companies say they managed to vacuum up 20 gigabytes of misaddressed e-mail over six months.
The intercepted correspondence included employee usernames and passwords, sensitive security information about the configuration of corporate network architecture that would be useful to hackers, affidavits and other documents related to litigation in which the companies were embroiled, and trade secrets, such as contracts for business transactions.
“Twenty gigs of data is a lot of data in six months of really doing nothing,” said researcher Peter Kim from the Godai Group. “And nobody knows this is happening.”
Doppelganger domains are ones that are spelled almost identically to legitimate domains, but differ slightly, such as a missing period separating a subdomain name from a primary domain name – as in the case of seibm.com as opposed to the real se.ibm.com domain that IBM uses for its division in Sweden.
Kim and colleague Garrett Gee, who released a paper this week (.pdf) discussing their research, found that 30 percent, or 151, of Fortune 500 companies were potentially vulnerable to having e-mail intercepted by such schemes, including top companies in consumer products, technology, banking, internet communication, media, aerospace, defense, and computer security.More...