A phishing campaign has been detected that uses Google Translate to make phishing web pages appear legitimate when visited through mobile browsers. The novel tactic makes it harder for end users to see that the website they have been directed to is not an official website.

The phishing attack starts with an email that indicates the user’s password has been used to access their Google account from an unfamiliar device. Many users will be familiar with these messages. They are generated when a user logs into their own account using a different device or from an unfamiliar location. The messages are also triggered when a user attempts to login to their account using a VPN that has previously not been used to access the account.

In this campaign, the standard Google Security Alert has been copied exactly and includes the Google logo, standard formatting, and text that users will be familiar with. The message tells the user to click on a link – A button below the warning message – to visit their account to review the activity and take action to secure their account.

If the user is on a desktop or laptop, they will be directed to a standard phishing page which has a copy of the Google login window. It should be apparent that the user is not on the legitimate Google site as the URL clearly nothing to do with Google although end users do not always check the URLs carefully, especially when there is an urgent reason for visiting a website such as a security alert.

If the user has opened the email on a mobile device and clicks the hyperlink button, the URL displayed in the browser will be different and they are much ore likely to be fooled. The phishing webpage uses Google Translate to display a URL containing a random string of characters, but crucially, the visible part of the URL displayed in the browser starts with translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_

The URL does contain the web page which the user is on, which is a page on mediacity.co.in that clearly has nothing to do with Google, but it is detailed much later in the URL so will not be displayed to the user unless they click the address bar to check the web page. Many users will not do that since the visible part of the URL appears to be a genuine Google page.

The Google login portal that is served is an old version, but it is likely to fool many users. If Google credentials are entered in the login box, JavaScript on the web page generates an email containing the user’s login credentials and sends them to the scammer.  The user is then redirected to a further phishing web page where their Facebook login credentials are requested. This login box is a clone of the login box used by Facebook on the mobile login portal and is similarly an old version. If login credentials are entered, they are sent to the scammer via email as well. The user is then directed to a Facebook page set up by the attacker.

While the phishing campaign is unlikely to work on desktops or laptops, many mobile users will likely be fooled by the scam and will provide their Google credentials. They may not fall for the Facebook login request, as being redirected to Facebook from Google is odd, but by that time the attacker will have full access to the user’s Google account. Google accounts can contain a wealth of sensitive data and can be used for further phishing attacks on the user’s contacts.

Security awareness training will help to prevent employees from falling for phishing scams such as this. By conditioning employees to always check the sender of a message before taking any action, and to always take the time to carefully check the full URL of a website before disclosing any sensitive information, scams like this can be easily identified. Even with security awareness training, employees make mistakes. To improve protection against phishing attacks, businesses should deploy an advanced spam filter to prevent malicious messages from being delivered to corporate inboxes. A web filter is also strongly recommended. A cloud-based web filter can prevent users from accessing phishing web pages, even when they are not onsite and are using mobile devices remotely.

For further information on spam filtering and web filtering for businesses, contact the TitanHQ team today and ask about SpamTitan and WebTitan: TitanHQ’s leading spam filtering and web filtering solutions for businesses.