How E-mail And Web Spoofing Are Used To Carry Out Phishing Attacks!
People use e-mail spoofing and web spoofing interchangeably, but they are different terms. Hackers use spoofed e-mail to lead the victim to a spoofed website. The primary objective of e-mail spoofing is to lure recipients into the opening, and possibly responding to a solicitation. A spoofed website, on the other hand, is the one that resembles the original/official website of the organization but is fake. It typically mimics the original website’s fonts, colors, and layout, including the images and logos to give itself an authentic look. The hacker uses the data entered into such spoofed websites for causing harm to the victim. Although both are interlinked through a complex web of exchanges among the adversaries, there are contrasting differences between e-mail and web spoofing. Here’s a detailed look inside both:
E-mail Spoofing involves forgery of an e-mail header to make the message appear to be coming from someone other than the sender. The success rate of E-mail Spoofing is high because people are more likely to interact with an e-mail which appears to be originating from a legitimate source. By now, everyone knows that it is not wise to click on links sent through e-mails or download files posted by unknown senders. Yes, the sender could be a legitimate one. However, it is better to play it safe, as hackers use this modus operandi to carry out targeted phishing attacks.
The purpose of sending e-mails from what appears to be an official source is to create a false sense of security amidst the recipients. It makes them open the mails and clicks on the links, as well. These spoofed e-mails are easy to detect and pose little threat when deleted timely. However, malicious varieties can cause more significant security risks and create serious problems.
Even businesses are not safe from e-mail spoofing attacks. Hackers use a highly successful spear-phishing attack in business e-mail compromise. It involves spoofing e-mails of the CFO or CEO of the enterprise and asking for a wire transfer or access to internal system credentials.
The Modus Operandi
E-mail Spoofing is easily carried out through a working SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) server. It is a simple method because SMTP does not provide a mechanism to address authentication.
Hackers use different methods for masking the origins of an e-mail. The intelligent use of sub-domains can disguise the actual roots of an e-mail. It can make them look like they originate from genuine sources. For example, the hacker might add the name of the business organization to the words ‘customer service’ and make it appear like a legitimate domain. People unwittingly trust e-mails coming from such domains. Additionally, a cybercriminal can alter the message header such as the FROM, RETURN-PATH, and REPLY-TO addresses.
Another way hackers carry out domain name spoofing is to juggle with words and transpose strategic letters to make the e-mails appear legitimate. Under such circumstances, the cybercriminals play with the words and make the spoofed e-mail seem as realistic as possible.
In e-mail spoofing, the victim reacts as if he/she is responding to a valid e-mail. In website spoofing, the hackers convince people that they are dealing or interacting with a legitimate entity. Such spoofed websites resemble the official website of the organization in all aspects.
However, there is always a minor defect somewhere. For example, the hacker might create a website, ‘Commonwaelth Bank’ instead of ‘Commonwealth Bank’. At first glance, both the sites would appear genuine, as there is only a slight spelling mistake. If the victim is in a hurry, he/she might end up interacting with the spoofed website and part with confidential data.
The Modus Operandi
URL cloaking is one way of spoofing websites. The hackers use specialized scripts to cover the actual URL with the one that you associate with a trusted site. The use of sub-domains is to confuse internet users into a false sense of security. Similar to the spoofed e-mail addresses, such URLs also contain a few transposed letters. They appear to be genuine, but a close look will reveal the difference.
Such types of “man-in-the-middle” (MITM) attacks evade the security safeguards of an SSL. They appear to be secure. But, the secure connection is to a different website than the one victim is trying to connect.
How To Avoid Becoming Victim To Such Attacks?
Cybercriminals are continually updating their techniques. Even seasoned internet users have fallen prey to their tactics. The most straightforward safeguard to avoid becoming a victim is to exercise great caution at all times. Additionally, the steps given below can prove to be effective in dealing with phishing attempts which deploy e-mail and web spoofing.
- If one has the slightest doubt that the e-mail source or the website is not genuine, it is prudent not to click on such links or open these e-mails. The delete option on the keyboard is the ideal remedy.
- Another way to handle such website spoofing efforts is not to trust the links, but take the trouble of typing out the website on the search bar. It only takes a couple more minutes, but you will end up saving your data from falling into the wrong hands.
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