Unsubscribing from phishing emails still allows a hacker to collect and confirm email addresses.
Following research by VeriSign that revealed that nine out of ten people are vulnerable to phishing scams, the company also warned users to be aware of other methods of harvesting email addresses.
Tim Callan, vice president of product marketing at VeriSign, claimed that he was ‘sceptical' over how many people would receive an email, not recognise it and use the unsubscribe function to remove themselves from future mailings.
Callan said: “Hackers are using the unsubscribe button to build a list of email addresses. It starts by a cybercriminal looking at an email account and trying to guess the username by a typical first name and last name ‘@' a certain site, or ‘@' a specific webmail account.
“Some will hit the inbox and some will fail, and by clicking on the unsubscribe button it confirms back to them that the email address is correct.”
He also claimed that in a phishing message there will be a random character string that is specific to that email and each one is unique. He explained that this is used to track what is being opened and accessed, as when a phishing email is delivered and a user clicks on it, the hacker can then log the IP address.
Callan said: “Doing this justifies the address, the phishers want to make as much money as possible and make it more and more different. They are very smart people who are constantly innovating.”
Andrew McClelland, director of business development at industry body IMRG, said: “It is amazing how quickly a fake site can take an enormous amount of money; the customer needs to look at things and not take it at face value. The industry needs to take action to make it more difficult.
“Maybe a question mark should be made over how easy it is to set up a domain? It should be simple to set up for any business and this is prolific with any system that it is simple and it will be used by people with less than honest means. Until they are locked out we can only raise awareness over what a good site looks like.”