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11/7/2007
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Salesforce.com Warns Customers Of Phishing Scheme

A Salesforce.com employee was tricked into disclosing a password, providing the phisher with information on a customer contact list.

A Salesforce.com employee bit on the bait of a phisher, and now the Web-based CRM software provider is warning customers not to fall for the same cybercriminal tricks.

On its Trust.Salesforce.com Web site this week, Salesforce.com posted a "letter about security" to customers alerting them to be cautious of "phishing and malware scams on the Internet," which are on "the rise."

In fact, the company revealed that a Salesforce.com employee had been a recent victim of a phishing scam that tricked the worker into disclosing a password, providing the phisher with information on a customer contact list. That contact list information included "first and last names, company names, e-mail addresses, and telephone numbers for Salesforce.com customers and related administrative data" belonging to Salesforce.com, according to the letter.

The letter, which was signed by Salesforce.com executive VP Parker Harris, also revealed that "a small number" of Salesforce.com customer users subsequently have become victims of a phishing -- being fooled into disclosing passwords after receiving "bogus e-mails that looked like a Salesforce.com invoice but were not."

In addition, "a few days ago, a new wave of phishing attempts that included attached malware -- software that secretly installs viruses or key loggers -- appeared and seemed to be targeted at a broader group of customers," the company disclosed in the notice.

"That's why we warned our system administrators last week of this new, more malicious phish and why we are sending this letter now with the goal of increasing awareness."

The company says its support and security teams are working with affected customers to enhance their security, as well as with law enforcement officials "and industry experts" to trace the incident and prevent further breaches.

The company isn't commenting beyond the information contained in the letter, says a representative at the company's PR agency. That includes disclosing whether any customers of Salesforce.com's affected clients were affected by the phishing incidents.

While Salesforce.com said in the letter that the "intrusion did not stem from a security flaw in our application or database," the incident spotlights one of the biggest worries some companies have in entrusting their data to software-as-a-service hosted vendors.

Still, when questioned about that concern, the Salesforce.com PR representative pointed out that "data breaches in the client-server world" -- including a highly publicized incident involving a stolen Veterans Administration laptop last year -- underscores that all environments need to be vigilant in data security.

In its letter, Salesforce.com recommends customers implement a number of changes "to enhance security," including educating employees not to open suspect e-mails; modify their Salesforce implementation "to activate IP range restrictions," allowing users to access Salesforce only from corporate networks or VPNs; and deploying spam filtering and malware protection software.

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