Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Research into Nigerian 419 Scam Could Lead to Improved Anti-Phishing Technologies

Via -

For seven years, Harriet Ottenheimer, a K-State professor emeritus of anthropology and a Fulbright scholar to the Czech Republic, and her son, Davi Ottenheimer, president of security consultancy flyingpenguin, collected and analyzed Nigerian 419 e-mails for clues that could be used to block these messages. These spam e-mails are called Nigerian 419 messages, or 419 for short. The number "419" refers to an article of the Nigerian Criminal Code concerning fraud.


By carefully analyzing the linguistic patterns in the e-mails, the Ottenheimers believe a technological solution can be created for e-mails to automatically be scanned and alert the recipient if there appears to be a possibility of fraud, thereby improving the anti-phishing technologies. The result would be similar to how anti-virus software scans for bad code in viruses and malware.

Ottenheimer used her linguistic skills to decode the discourse of the scam e-mails and how they work on their victims. Primarily, she said, the victims have been well-educated westerners, such as such university professors, doctors, lawyers, financial planners and bankers.

According to their research, slightly fewer than half of the e-mails could be successfully traced to Africa, whereas slightly more than half of the e-mails could be traced to places like Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Asia, the United States, North America and South America.

The main point is that 'African' scam letters are written so as to appear to be from Africa. There are other kinds of scam letters purporting to come from other places and the language in those is tailored equally carefully to appear to be from those places," she said. "You can't really tell who is writing the letters, or where they are situated in the physical world, but if you are going to write a letter and claim to be a Russian engineer, or a Burmese princess, or a Middle Eastern widow of an oil-man, or the son of a Nigerian dictator, then you will probably want to choose your linguistic style carefully so that you sound 'authentic' to the recipient."

The Ottenheimers intend to publish their findings as well as continue to look for linguistic patterns that can be used as a component of technological solutions to counteracting Internet fraud and improving security systems.

No comments:

Post a Comment