Phishers are constantly changing their tactics, techniques, and procedures to evade security solutions and fool end users into disclosing sensitive information or installing malware. One of the most commonly used tactics is to impersonate trusted companies, with emails often including corporate logos, footers, and even correct contact information to make the messages look like genuine communications from the spoofed companies.
Email security solutions are now much better at detecting these scam emails. Email security solutions use the email security protocols SPF, DKIM, and DMARC to detect and block email impersonation attacks. SPF – Sender Policy Framework – restricts who can send emails from a corporate domain and prevents domain spoofing. DKIM – DomainKeys Identified Mail –protects against emails being tampered with, while DMARC – Domain-based Message Authentication – works in conjunction with SPF and DKIM to protect against email spoofing attacks, by linking a domain name with the name in the From: email header. This allows messages to be identified as malicious when they are sent by an unauthorized user of a domain.
Machine-learning technology and AI are used to distinguish genuine communications from spoofed messages. Some email security solutions can perform checks of corporate logos in email messages and compare these to the sender’s address to make sure the emails have come from an official source.
One phishing campaign has been detected that attempts to circumvent these AI protections by using corporate logos that have had mathematical symbols inserted to replace existing letters. Checks of these images will not alert AI-based email security solutions to a fake message, since the spoofed email messages do not contain the official corporate logo. The logos are, however, sufficiently similar to the genuine logo to fool end users.
One example of this was found in an email spoofing Verizon. The official Verizon logo has a red V, which has been substituted for a red square root symbol. These emails attempt to trick the recipients into clicking a link in the email which directs them to a website that also spoofs the brand. They are then asked to provide credentials to verify their identity. Those credentials are then captured by the scammers.
The Verizon phishing email uses a fake voicemail message as a lure, then asks the user to enter their Office 365 credentials to access the voicemail message. While that is an obvious red flag as Verizon does not require Office 365 credentials, individuals who failed to identify the email for the scam it is maybe fooled, after all, the phishing page accurately spoofs the official Verizon website.
While many spoofed emails will be blocked by SPF, DKIM, and DMARC, machine learning technology, and other checks employed by email security solutions, email security gateways are not 100% effective. For example, independent tests have shown SpamTitan has a very high detection rate – in excess of 99.97% – but a small number of emails will bypass defenses on occasion and that is true of all email security solutions.
This is why it is also recommended to implement a web filtering solution. Web filters tackle phishing from a different angle. Instead of blocking the message, they block attempts by end users to visit malicious links in emails.
TitanHQ’s web filtering solution – WebTitan – is a DNS-based web filter. When a request is made to visit a website, WebTitan performs a check at the DNS lookup stage of the request, before any content is downloaded. If the request is for a known malicious website or URL that violates an organization’s policies, the request is denied, and the user is protected. WebTitan is constantly updated to include malicious web content through multiple threat intelligence feeds to provide zero-minute protection.
Phishing attacks are becoming much more sophisticated, and while email security solutions will block the majority of attacks, phishing defenses now need to consist of multiple overlapping layers of security. By implementing a spam filter, web filter, antivirus software, and providing regular security awareness training, businesses can mount a formidable defense against phishing attacks.
For more information about web filters, contact TitanHQ today. All TitanHQ solutions are available on a free trial to allow potential customers to try before they buy with no obligation to proceed. Product demonstrations can also be provided on request.