In the ongoing enterprise to commit online crimes, cyber criminals are always looking for big payouts. They look for that big scheme that will net them a large amount of money for relatively little work. One such tool for netting big returns is a practice known as website spoofing. It offers multiple avenues to attack visitors simultaneously.
Website spoofing involves creating fraudulent websites designed to look like real sites people are familiar with. Pick any well-known website, like your bank’s site for instance. A spoofed bank site would be ideal for harvesting sensitive personal information from users. Once criminals have names, addresses, Social Security numbers, etc. they have all the information they need to steal a victim’s identity.
Criminals turn to website spoofing to:
- perpetrate identity theft
- launch and spread malware
- perpetrate PPC ad fraud.
If you spend time online every day, the chances are pretty good that you have been exposed to spoofed websites. Whether or not you have been victimized by them is another matter.
Website Spoofing and Identity Theft
The first level of attack in website spoofing is identity theft. Unsuspecting users are led to spoofed websites where they fall victim to phishing attacks. What is a phishing attack? It is a surprisingly simple, unsophisticated solicitation of personal information. The previous example of a bank website illustrates the point perfectly.
A victim might be led to a website that looks identical to her bank’s site. Being none the wiser, she logs on with her username and password. The site then asks her to verify personal information to make sure it matches the bank’s records. She enters the information and clicks the ‘submit’ button. The scammer now has everything he needs to steal her identity.
Website Spoofing and Malware
Sometimes cyber criminals are after bigger fish. They might still launch phishing attacks from a spoofed website, but their main purpose is to deposit malware on the computers of unsuspecting visitors. The malware can be designed to do just about anything – from launching DoS attacks to perpetrating ransomware schemes.
Website Spoofing and PPC Ad Fraud
When cyber criminals utilize spoofed websites to perpetrate PPC ad fraud, the extra activity is almost like a bonus. The sites themselves do not exist exclusively for ad fraud purposes. Nonetheless, ads can be placed on the fake sites with the expectation that visitors will click. Scammers can also program click bots to seek out those ads as well.
The makers of the Fraud Blocker ad fraud protection software say that placing ads on spoofed websites works well because advertisers have no way of knowing exactly where their ads are being placed. If they ever decide to start looking around, they may be hard-pressed to identify a spoofed website without digging deeply into the details.
A Range of Sophisticated Tools
It is important to note that cyber criminals engaged in website spoofing are not beginners with little knowledge of how the web works. They are skilled coders and website developers with access to a range of helpful tools. They know how to:
- cloak URLs
- launch homograph attacks
- utilize typosquatting
- utilize email spoofing.
The fact is that there are many ways to rip people off via website spoofing. Most of the means by which criminals succeed are rooted in social engineering, which is to say fooling people into victimizing themselves by engaging in some sort of risky behavior they are not wise to.
Website spoofing offers multiple levels of attack that make it a very lucrative tool. The rest of us just need to be that much more diligent to prevent being victimized.