How you should NOT warn about phishing…

PostNL is well-known company in the Netherlands that specialized in delivering snail mail and packages. And recently, some spammers started mailing fake messages pretending to be PostNL for phishing purposes. So, PostNL responded with this Dutch message:

PhishingSince many of you probably don’t know what it says, it roughly translates into a warning about the spammers. Spammers are sending emails claiming a package could not be delivered and you’re asked to click on the provided link. When you do click that link, malware will be downloaded on your system. So, a pretty serious situation and they advice their customers to delete it immediately. And don’t click the link in the email!

And then the irony of this email. It has a link providing more information about this kind of phishing…

This, of course, will be quite helpful for those spammers who can now copy this exact email to send to everyone, since it looks quite reliable. They only have to adjust the link to their own malware link. PostNL is actually making people dumb this way. Don’t click other links but please do click this link. That’s just bad. A very nasty situation because they’re training people to click on links provided in their email, while people should never click on a link in an email. (Unless you’re 100% sure it’s a good link.)

Now, the big question: Why this link?

I did some research by clicking the link and ending up at http://subscriber.e-mark.nl/link[snip].html which redirected me to the PostNL website. (Just snipped the link in text, but it still links to the link I received.) So, what is Emark?

Well, Emark is a digital marketing solution, useful for companies that like to outsource such tasks. You can use their services to link to your CRM system and to send mass emails to your customers for all kinds of purposes. Like this warning. Problem is that those emails are sent through the Emark servers so aware customers will notice that PostNL did not mail it from their own systems. Which is one major warning sign for phishing emails. But other marks in the email do suggest it is a real message, not faked by a spammer. The link in the mail is the same domain as the sender, while spammers generally use different domains. And it was sent to the proper alias I use.

So, what is the long page name in the link? Well, that is easy. PostNL uses a CRM solution and that link will most likely contain a unique identifier for every customer in their system. Because I clicked that link, PostNL will now know that I’ve read this email including when I visited their warning page. (Me posting that link here will probably mess up their CRM system if every visitor here will click it!🙂 Yeah, I’m Evil!) So now they know which customers are reading their emails and who will click the links provided. Normally, those would be the customers who will be more at risk for these kinds of phishing emails since they clicked a link even though they were warned not to.

But I might be mistaken but by doing this without informing the customer that their click will be registered, they might be in violation with the Dutch cookie law. They register that I’ve read a specific email and visited their webpage so they can also register my IP address. They also know when I clicked that link. And this data is linked to my PostNL account without me giving permission for this all. It’s not a very serious violation but still…

So, PostNL is searching for their dumb customers. Well, it seems that way to me. Time for me to report PostNL for phishing…

That’s not a proper way to deal with your customers and it also teaches them very bad habits!