Aetna, phishing and security


We’ve just gotten home from M3AAWG and I’m catching up with a lot of the administrative stuff that’s gotten ignored while we were soaking up the tons of information from some of the smartest Internet security folks around. One of the tasks I’m working on is checking on our recent bills from our health insurance provider. Their website seems to be down, so I called them up and asked them if it was down or if something was broken on my end.
They did confirm there was a problem with the site “earlier today” but then started asking me for my account information. They’ve promised to email me a new password because of reasons.
One of the things about M3AAWG is that concentrated discussions about spam and online criminals and security can make everything feel so fragile and security so inadequate to protect us against criminals. I start thinking that everything is compromised. It doesn’t help that websites fail just at the time when I start trying to figure out if my personal information leaked out.
In the course of trying to figure out if there is something wrong at Aetna and if my personal information is safe, I find an article about how poor security is for health companies. “Health companies flunked an email security survey—except Aetna.” Apparently, out of all the health companies out there, Aetna are the only ones fully implementing DMARC on all their mail streams.
The problem is that for the mail I received from Aetna, the visible From: address is This is one of the major vulnerabilities of DMARC. How can I, as a recipient, tell that this is officially mail from Aetna? Any phisher could register “” or “” or “” and publish DMARC records and use those records to phish customers. Even worse, isn’t a SSL registered website.
This is exactly the type of setup a phisher would use to gain access to people’s health insurance accounts. And Aetna offers the ability to draft payments directly from a business checking account, so breaking into the billing account also offers some level of access to the business money.
Do I think this is a phish? No.
Do I think the average person would be able to tell that? No.
There’s got to be a better way to secure folks online.

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By laura

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