Organizations have elaborate multi-layer cybersecurity defense mechanisms in place and yet hackers manage to penetrate through to access their data. With these stronger defense mechanisms, the number of machine and direct network exploits have decreased. However, hackers have now turned towards phishing attacks and social engineering.
Reports suggest that more than 90% of data breaches start with a phishing attack. Phishing does not involve complex algorithms but instead the human brain. It is an ‘easier’ way for hackers to get in by leveraging the naivety of the users i.e. your company’s employees.
There are several kinds of phishing attacks, many of which involve stealing the credentials of users for gaining access to corporate networks. These phishing attacks make use of highly convincing and deceptive pop-ups, websites, ads, search results, browser extensions, freeware, and social media to fool the users into giving away their information.
Replica Sign-In Phishing Attacks:
A new and disturbing type of phishing attack that has surfaced just recently are replica sign-in pages for centralized (or federated) logins. The concept behind these attacks is that the human brain tends to prioritize visual icons that they are familiar with. These recognizable icons make the mind see what it expects to see, rather than what they are actually seeing.
For convincing the users of their authenticity, these replica pages make use of the exact same icons/logos, colors, fonts, and layouts as that of popular brands such as Microsoft, Google, and Facebook. Not just this, but the pages are so realistic that they come with their own “Password Reset” and “Security Options” features. The alarming thing is that all these features are functional and can be used to login to a service, reset the password, or authenticate the user through their security information. This is why replica sign-in pages are so mesmerizing and effective.
Furthermore, these replica sign-in pages are becoming even more sophisticated with time. For instance, we now see multi-brand phishing pages in which attackers enable the users to sign in to a service such as Dropbox via multiple log-in options such as Hotmail or Gmail. The user can gain access to the service only by entering their credentials for a separate federated email source of their choice such as Gmail. Regardless of the email source that the users select, the user’s information is collected and sent to a repository email address (of the hacker) via a PHP script (code).
Phishing Attacks are Hard to Detect:
This constantly changing and minimal uptime of these phishing sites makes them very hard to identify and block them before they move on. Therefore, in order to remain protected against such attacks, it is essential to detect and block them in real-time, which is a very difficult task.
Possible Solutions to Phishing Attacks:
The most common attempt made by security professionals to prevent phishing attacks is through training and awareness. Employees are taught how to identify and avoid such replica sign-ins so that they are not fooled into giving away their credentials. However, these phishing sites are becoming increasingly complex to distinguish from federated sites because of their complicated and real-like designs. Other than this, the fact that most employees are often too distracted to notice minute details makes them fallible, and hence leads to mistakes.
Training and creating awareness in the workforce alone does not provide sufficient protection against multiple replica sign-in attacks. For these rapidly growing and changing phishing attacks, a phishing security system needs to be implemented that can make use of real-time analysis to detect and prevent such attacks from occurring. Phishing security systems can be quite complex to develop and implement since these require making use of a contextual frame and humanlike mentality for detecting and blocking phishing attempts before these can reach the users.