May 12 2016

United States Congress Blocks Yahoo!

In a piece of interesting news that crossed my radar last night, it looks like the United States Congress is blocking access to Yahoo, all because someone feel victim to a phishing scam. That’s right. Someone in the United States Government, in a major legislative role, mind you, fell victim, in 2016, to some (as yet undisclosed) piece of ransom-ware.

Now, call me cynical, but I would think there would be proper training about such risks; don’t open strange emails, keep this and that up to date, you know the drill. You would think of all things, the standard computers used by those in the United States Government for official business would be among the best protected in the nation.

I guess it’s true what they say: sometimes, the error exists between the keyboard and chair.


Being real for a minute, you can’t completely fault the person – from what I can find on this issue, it seems it was the typical email that looked legitimate, and had a malicious attachment which, when ran, basically took over the system.

Can you really blame someone for opening such? When everything looked correct and proper? Sometimes, no, but caution, I think, would have won out in the end. Let’s think about it:

Was the end user expecting such a file?
Wouldn’t the end user know that you never just open files sent, and that you always do a scan on them before you run them?
Wouldn’t anyone sending such files know that sending them via email, as an attachment, is considered the worst way to send a file due to this being the most common attack vector for the past 25 years?

It just kind of boggles my mind that someone in our own government would be that silly, and that somehow nothing detected that this file was a piece of malware.


Judging from the reports that the computer had to be “reformatted” (how I hate that term..) to remove the software, my guess is that it was a type of system-takeover ransom-ware, the kind that demands you pay X amount of money or the now encrypted files are lost forever; you know, the kind of stuff your uncle or someone winds up with on their computer  and they beg you to help them out.

Of course, rather than blame user error, Congress is blaming Yahoo on this. I don’t know if the email account the victim was using was a Yahoo account, or if the email was passed through a Yahoo mail server, and that’s where they claim fault lies, but whatever case, the United States Government is blocking access to Yahoo email on any of their networks and machines.

Yep. They want to penalize Yahoo directly for what amounts to user error when dealing with a very common exploit in email at its core – the fact that header information can be forged in such a way to make an email look legitimate when it isn’t. This is something that has been known about since pretty much the beginnings of the internet, something that all email providers have issues with.. and yet this is Yahoo’s fault.

All because someone failed to exercise standard caution when using email. They failed to do what is the equivalent of looking both ways before crossing the street.

That makes ya think, doesn’t it?

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