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Mahmudiya Documentation: False Phishing Alerts by Microsoft

 

 

Paris, May 9th, 2009 - False Phishing Alert

 

This website has been following and documenting the media reports and court proceedings covering the circumstances of the Mahmudiya Massacre since it had been reported for the first time in July of 2006. Over the past years, I have noticed a growing interest in my documentation, resulting in increased web traffic. This was especially true for the past week, when the civil trial against Steven Green started.

 

Today, when reviewing and browsing my website with the Internet Explorer, I came across the following phishing alert from Microsoft, when I tried to open the Mahmudiya Images Page:

 

 

Needless to say, I do not collect any personal or financial information via my website from anyone who is browsing my website. Consequently, I informed Microsoft about the false alarm and received 30 minutes later the following e-mail:

 

Subject: SRX1101578283ID

From: Microsoft SmartScreen/Phishing Filter Support

Date: 9:21 PM

 

Thank you for contacting us about:

 

http://www.expose-the-war-profiteers.org/DOD/iraq_II/mahmudiya_docs/images.htm.

 

We have reviewed the information you provided regarding this website and removed the incorrect designation. We thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. 

 

Please note that although we have removed the incorrect designation, it may take up to 24 hours for you to see this change reflected.

 

In the event that the incorrect designation persists beyond 24 hours from the receipt of this e-mail message, please let us know by replying directly to this message. Please do not reply unless the problem persists. 

 

Thank you,

Microsoft SmartScreen/Phishing Filter Support

 

I subsequently wrote a second e-mail to Microsoft, inquiring about the reason for the false alert. So far, I have not received a response to my second e-mail.

 

In the meantime I discovered three more webpages, press reports about the Steven Green trial, which have been designated by Microsoft as unsafe:

 

http://www.expose-the-war-profiteers.org/archive/media/2009-2/20090507.htm

 

http://www.expose-the-war-profiteers.org/archive/media/2009-2/20090507-1.htm

 

http://www.expose-the-war-profiteers.org/archive/media/2009-2/20090507-2.htm

 

Naturally, I alerted Microsoft again, but so far, I have not been re-contacted by them.

 

In view of the fact that the verdict in the Steven Green trial has recently been pronounced and that the sentencing phase will start in two days, I tend to think of foul play by people, who would like to block my web site and any pages in it, which cover the Steven Green trial.

 

All I can say is that it is safe to browse my website. “Only” the contents might be disturbing to some viewers.

 

Sincerely,

 

Martin Ottmann

 

 

May 10th, 2009 - Update

 

Finally, Microsoft has removed the last false designation from the above-mentioned webpages. Still, no word about the reason for the false blacklisting:

 

Subject: SRX1101612339ID -

Date: Sun, 10 May 2009 01:53:16 -0700

From: Microsoft SmartScreen/Phishing Filter Support

 

Thank you for contacting us about:

 

http://www.expose-the-war-profiteers.org/archive/media/2009-2/20090507-1.htm.

 

We have reviewed the information you provided regarding this website and  removed the incorrect designation. We thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. 

 

Please note that although we have removed the incorrect designation, it  may take up to 24 hours for you to see this change reflected.

 

In the event that the incorrect designation persists beyond 24 hours  from the receipt of this e-mail message, please let us know by replying directly to this message. Please do not reply unless the problem persists. 

 

Thank you,

Microsoft SmartScreen/Phishing Filter Support

 

 

May 11th, 2009 - Next Update

 

Another automated standard reply by Microsoft:

 

Subject: RE: SRX1101578283ID -

Date: Mon, 11 May 2009 10:35:47 -0700

From: Microsoft SmartScreen/Phishing Filter Support

 

Thank you for your recent e-mail. Below are resources that will aid in avoiding this issue in the future.  These include resources on best practices to avoid false warnings and blocks as well as information concerning how and why warnings and blocks occur.

 

The Microsoft Phishing Filter automatically analyzes web sites a user visits only when enabled. When the filter is ON it will only display a yellow caution if the page has some of the typical characteristics of phishing Web sites, but it is not on the list of reported phishing Web sites. When a caution is displayed, users can report any site that they don’t actually think is a phishing site. In addition, there’s nothing preventing them from moving forward with a site they trust, even when a yellow warning comes up.

 

False warnings and blocks, while rare, do occasionally occur. This is why a key design goal of the Microsoft Phishing Filter escalation process is to help ensure that we correct any false warnings in an extremely quick and efficient manner. The ease of use and quick response times of this feedback process are viewed as especially important for the service that runs within IE7, Windows Vista, Windows Live toolbar and the MSN Premium client. Given the scale of the Microsoft Phishing Filter service, we’ve found that site owners are most satisfied when we point them to the following sources of information:

 

Regarding how the filter works, what data sources are used and how a site can be flagged. The Microsoft Phishing Filter uses a combination of our built-in-filter, an on-line service and a built in mechanism to report suspected Phishing sites as well as false warnings. A block experience is typically based on the various data providers and end-user feedback to the on-line service. More details about the data providers we work with can be found here:

 

http://www.microsoft.com/mscorp/safety/industry/providers.mspx

 

[…] Site owners are encouraged to use their sites with IE7 and to report false warnings to us via the built-in, online reporting tool.  At the present time, this is the most expedient way to report false warnings and phishing sites. […]

 

Thank you,

Microsoft Smart Screen/Phishing Filter Support

 

 

May 12th, 2009 - Final Message from Microsoft

 

Finally, Microsoft responded to my concerns. But as expected, they did not reveal who of their “data providers” was responsible for the false alert and the eventual blacklisting.

 

Subject: RE: SRX1101578283ID -

Date: Tue, 12 May 2009 12:47:17 -0700

From: Microsoft SmartScreen/Phishing Filter Support

 

Thank you for contacting us, Mr. Ottman.

 

We have taken appropriate steps to address the warnings for the content pages at

 

http://www.expose-the-war-profiteers.org/archive/.

 

We have also performed a cursory review of the rest of your site  and are currently unable to reproduce any warnings.

 

A key design goal of the Microsoft Phishing Filter escalation process is to help ensure that we correct any false warnings in an extremely quick and efficient manner. When a caution is displayed, users can report any site that they don’t actually think is a phishing site. However, there is nothing preventing them from moving forward with a site they trust, even when a yellow warning is present.

 

If you are experiencing a systemic issue of false warnings affecting multiple sites, please reply to this message with a list of the affected URLs. We will be able to address these as a group.

 

We appreciate your interest in the functionality of the Microsoft Phishing Filter. However, we are not able to provide any further information outside of what has been sent in our previous messages.

 

Thank you,

Microsoft Smart Screen/Phishing Filter Support

 

 

 

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