How good are you at telling the difference between domain names you know and trust and imposter or look-alike domains? The answer may depend on how familiar you are with the nuances of internationalized domain names (IDNs), as well as which browser or Web application you’re using.
For example, how does your browser interpret the following domain? I’ll give you a hint: Despite appearances, it is most certainly not the actual domain for software firm CA Technologies (formerly Computer Associates Intl Inc.), which owns the original ca.com domain name:
Go ahead and click on the link above or cut-and-paste it into a browser address bar. If you’re using Google Chrome, Apple’s Safari, or some recent version of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer or Edge browsers, you should notice that the address converts to “xn--80a7a.com.” This is called “punycode,” and it allows browsers to render domains with non-Latin alphabets like Cyrillic and Ukrainian.
Below is what it looks like in Edge on Windows 10; Google Chrome renders it much the same way. Notice what’s in the address bar (ignore the “fake site” and “Welcome to…” text, which was added as a courtesy by the person who registered this domain):
Spammers are abusing U.S. dot-gov (.gov) link shorteners and ill-advised features on state government domains to promote spammy sites that are hidden behind short links ending in”usa.gov”.
The events of the past week reminded me of a privacy topic I’ve been meaning to revisit: That voice-over-IP telephony service Skype constantly exposes your Internet address to the entire world, and that there are now numerous free and commercial tools that can be used to link Skype user account names to numeric Internet addresses.
A new version of the Personal Software Inspector (PSI) tool from vulnerability management firm Secunia automates the updating of third-party programs that don’t already have auto-updaters built-in. The new version is a welcome development for Internet users who are still searching their keyboards for the “any” key, but experienced PSI users will probably want to stick with the current version.
A few readers have written in to say they recently received Skype phone calls urging them to download and install a system update for Microsoft Windows. Users who visit the recommended site are bombarded with the same old scareware prompts that try to frighten them into purchasing worthless security software.
“Evilgrade,” a toolkit that makes it simple for attackers to install malicious software by exploiting weaknesses in the auto-update feature of many popular software titles, recently received an upgrade of its own and is now capable of hijacking the update process of more than 60 legitimate programs.