Sky worries users with phishy-looking password reset email

Graham Cluley

Sky worries users with phishy looking password reset email

Sky worries users with phishy looking password reset email

UK telecoms company Sky sent some of its customers an email yesterday evening telling them that their passwords were being reset.

I guess I should be pleased that so many recipients questioned whether the email was legitimate, and contacted Sky’s customer service department on Twitter to seek reassurance that they weren’t being phished.

But there’s little doubt in my mind that Sky could have done a better job when they designed their email to make it look less suspicious.

Here’s the email that Sky sent some of its customers:

Sky email

Dear Customer

At Sky we take the security of your data and information extremely seriously. To help keep your account safe we have reset the password for your Sky account.

You will now need to choose a new password to access your account. To reset your password, please visit [LINK] and enter your email or username.

We’re sorry for any inconvenience caused.

Sky

There are a number of ways that Sky could have better reassured its customers about what has happened, and reduced recipients’ fears that they were being phished.

Dear Customer

Why not name the customer? Why use a generic term like “Customer”? Sky surely knows the names of its customers, so why not use the information? A phishing email might use a genuine customer’s name in its greeting, but it’s more common that they will use a generic term like “Customer”?

While we’re on the subject – why not reference the Sky user’s customer ID or maybe the last three characters of their postcode? That, again, would make the email look more convincing than a generic greeting.

To help keep your account safe we have reset the password for your Sky account.

Why? Has Sky been hacked? Do you have reason to believe the user’s account has been compromised? Tell the customer why you are doing this, and whether their account may have been accessed. Sky has just told a customer that their password has been changed to “keep their account safe.” That’s likely to give the typical user collywobbles.

Offer an explanation with enough detail so users can assess the level of risk. Maybe point people to a security page on Sky’s website which confirms the email is legitimate, and gives concerned users an FAQ rather than leave it to the company’s social media and support team to mop up the mess.

My hunch is that Sky hasn’t been hacked. My guess is that Sky is resetting some users’ passwords after it saw evidence of attempts to access accounts by unauthorised parties, perhaps by credential stuffing (where hackers attempt to break into accounts using previously-breached username and passwords).

But these are just hunches and guesses because Sky’s email doesn’t offer any details, and there’s no advisory on its website where users can find more information.

To reset your password, please visit [LINK] and enter your email or username.

And this, of course, is what phishing emails do. They include a clickable link to a website which asks users to re-enter their login credentials, and then carts them off into the hands of online criminals.

Banks who care about their users’ account security don’t send out password reset links because they know that it’s the kind of dirty trick used by fraudsters. Instead they tell you to visit the website and reset your password as part of the regular login process. Maybe other companies with online accounts could learn a thing or two from that.

For what it’s worth, here is the real, genuine link to reset your Sky password: https://skyid.sky.com/resetpassword/skycom

But you shouldn’t click on it to reset your password, because you shouldn’t trust me. And similarly you shouldn’t trust any emails that carry the hallmarks of a phish.

Update:

Thanks to an anonymous reader who points out that Sky has published a brief FAQ with more details on its website. Here’s part of it:

What has happened?
Sky has been informed by the provider of Sky.com email accounts that a number of accounts have been accessed without permission through an attack called ‘credential stuffing’. This is where an intruder has obtained a list of usernames and passwords (“credentials”) from one or more external sources illegitimately. The intruder then runs an automated programme across a range of online services to see if those credentials are still valid. If the credentials match, the intruder can then log in to that account.

What can I do about it?
We’ve already locked the accounts of everyone who has been affected. If your account has been locked, you’ll need to call us on the number above and follow the steps provided. To help keep your account as safe as possible, please ensure you regularly update your password and change any similar passwords you may use on other accounts.

Sky doesn’t say on its webpage, but the company which provides its email service is Yahoo.

Readers with long memories may recall that in 2016 Yahoo confirmed that it had suffered a massive hack back in 2014, and that Sky customers were also asked to change their passwords in the fallout.

Graham Cluley Graham Cluley is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s when he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and is an international public speaker on the topic of computer security, hackers, and online privacy. Follow him on Twitter at @gcluley, or drop him an email.

2 Replies to “Sky worries users with phishy-looking password reset email”

  1. "This is where an intruder has obtained a list of usernames and passwords (“credentials”) from one or more external sources illegitimately."

    Is there a "legitimate" way of obtaining a list of usernames and passwords from one or more external sources?

  2. I am a sky account holder and I have not received this email, the first i knew of this was your article. However yes I also recall the yahoo breach and changed my password back when that was disclosed. I have also distanced myself from my sky/yahoo email address and no longer use it for regular emails, it has been resigned to the status of a spam trap.

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