Cybercriminals are using an increasing range of tactics, techniques and procedures to fool the unwary into disclosing their credentials or installing malware, which is making it hard for end users to distinguish between genuine and malicious messages.

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It is common for cybercriminals to purchase lookalike domains for use in phishing scams and for distributing malware. Oftentimes the domains purchased are very similar to the domains they impersonate, aside from one or two changed letters.

For instance, the letters v v could be used in place of a w for a domain spoofing Wal-Mart – e.g. VVal-Mart. In internationalized domain name (IDN) homograph attacks, aka script spoofing, Greek, Latin, and Cyrillic letters are used in domains instead of standard letters. This can lead to domains being almost indistinguishable from the domains they are spoofing, especially since the web pages hosted on those domains include the logos and color schemes used on the official websites.

FBI Warns of Use of Spoofed FBI Domains

Recently the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued a warning following the discovery that many FBI-related domain names have been purchased that closely resemble official FBI websites. While these domains are not believed to have been used for malicious purposes to date, it is probable that the individuals registering these domains were intending to use them in phishing attacks, for distributing malware, or for disinformation campaigns. The domains include fbidefense.com, fbimaryland, fbi-ny, fib.ca, fbi-intel.com, fbi.systems, and fbi.health.

These domains can be used to host phishing kits or exploit kits, but the domains can be used to create official-looking email addresses. An email from one of these domains, that has the FBI in the name, could easily scare someone into taking an action demand in the email, such as disclosing their login credentials or opening a malicious email attachment.

Legitimate Cloud Services Leveraged in Sophisticated Phishing Attacks

There have also been phishing campaigns detected in recent weeks that use legitimate cloud services to mask the malicious nature of the emails. Campaigns have been detected that use links to Google Forms, Google Docs, Dropbox, and cloud services from Amazon and Oracle. Emails are sent that include fake notifications with links to these cloud services; however, once the link is clicked, the user is taken through a series of redirects to a malicious website hosting fake Office 365 login prompts that steal credentials.

Several of these campaigns involved checks to make sure the recipient is a real person, with automated responses directed to official domains to prevent analysis. Phishers are also continuing to use typosquatting – the name given to the use of domains with natural typographical errors – to catch out careless typists.

Sophisticated Campaigns Call for Sophisticated Cybersecurity Defenses

The sophisticated nature of today’s phishing and malware campaigns, together with cybercriminals’ constantly changing tactics, techniques, and procedures, mean it is becoming harder for end users to distinguish between genuine and malicious emails. End user security awareness training is still important, but it has never been more important to have effective technical solutions in place to ensure that these threats are identified and blocked before any harm is caused.

The first line of defense against phishing is an email security gateway solution through which all emails need to pass before they reach inboxes. These solutions need to use a range of advanced mechanisms for identifying malicious and suspicious emails, so should one mechanism fail to identify a malicious email, others are in place to provide protection.

SpamTitan from TitanHQ is one such solution that incorporates many layers of protection to detect and block phishing and malware attacks via email. Checks are performed on the message headers, content is analyzed, and machine learning is incorporated to identify never before seen threats, in addition to blacklisting of known malicious email addresses and domains. To block malware threats, SpamTitan uses dual anti-virus engines to block known threats and sandboxing to identify and block zero-day malware threats. Working seamlessly together, these mechanisms will block 99.97% of malicious messages.

An additional anti-phishing solution that you may not have considered is a web filtering solution. Web filters are important for blocking the web-based component of phishing attacks and preventing individuals from visiting sites used for malware delivery. A web filter can also block redirects to malicious websites that hide behind links to legitimate cloud services.

WebTitan from TitanHQ is a smart, DNS-based web filtering solution that uses automation and advanced analytics to block emerging phishing and other malicious URLs, not just those that have been already used in attacks and have been added to blacklists. Through the use of AI-based technology, WebTitan can provide protection from zero-minute threats.

Advanced cybersecurity defenses do not need to be complicated for end users to use. Both SpamTitan and WebTitan have been developed to be easy to implement, use, and maintain. While they incorporate all the required protections and allow advanced users to drill down and analyze threats, they can also easily be used to protect networks and devices by users with little technical skill. The ease of implementation, use, and maintenance together with the superb threat protection are why the solutions are consistently rated so highly on review sites such as Capterra, GetApp, Software Advice, and on Google Reviews.

To improve your defenses against cybersecurity threats delivered via email and via the web, give the TitanHQ a team a call today and find out more about SpamTitan Email Security and WebTitan DNS filtering.