Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Attacks/Breaches

Financial Phishing Grows in Volume and Sophistication in First Half of 2019

Criminals are using the tools intended to protect consumers to attack them through techniques that are becoming more successful with each passing month.

Phishing — especially phishing involving websites claiming to be from financial institutions — is growing, and criminals are getting better at their craft. A new report shows how attackers are using messages that closely mimic legitimate bank promotions to entice users to open email messages and click on links, then using those clicks and opens as the first step in campaigns that steal credentials, embezzle funds, and plant ransomware or other malware across systems.

The report, "The State of Financial Phishing" for the first half of 2019, demonstrates that one of the principal tools in fighting online fraud — the green "lock" icon that shows the website is protected by encryption — has now been co-opted by criminals to create a false sense of security in their malicious Web traps.

Criminals have found that the same free certificate authorities (CAs) making it easy for legitimate small businesses to protect their websites enhance the look and feel of bogus, criminal sites. Bob Maley, chief security officer at report sponsor Normshield, says that free CAs like LetsEncrypt have helped small organizations but with significant unintended consequences: "The shift to using domains with certificates changes the game," he says.

According to the report, the first six months of the year saw a 14% increase in domains potentially used in phishing campaigns and double the number of phishing domains that were certified by registrars. That works out to more than 1,900 potential phishing domains that were registered in the first half of 2019.

Maley says the rate of phishing domain registration is increasing, and he expects more than 3,500 new criminal domains will be registered by the end of the year. Many of those, he says, won't be used quickly; attackers will let them "age" so that protection algorithms designed to protect users from "quick hit" campaigns won't be triggered.

Those criminal domains are using techniques like TLS or SSL certificates to look more legitimate. The researchers say the 8.5% of phishing domains that used a valid encryption certificate in 2018 will increase to 15% of sites with a legitimate green lock icon in 2019.

"My take on this is that cybersecurity professionals really need to understand that there's a strategic process being followed by both sides," Maley says. "OODA — observe, orient, decide, and act — is a war-fighting concept that everyone uses. Some just do it quicker."

The great danger is that criminals are going through the OODA loop faster than the defenders, Maley says. And he points out that security professionals could take concrete steps to get ahead of their adversaries.

He recommends searching for URLs likely to be used in legitimate business transactions and being vigilant about several critical points. First, avoid clicking on two- or three-letter domain names because they're so easily spoofed. The same, he says, is true of highly generic site names. Block these in internal Web filter software and, Maley argues, make life a little easier for your peers.

"Identify phishing domains that are applied to your company and take those down" with DMCA and other legal takedown demands, he says.

Related Content:

Curtis Franklin Jr. is Senior Editor at Dark Reading. In this role he focuses on product and technology coverage for the publication. In addition he works on audio and video programming for Dark Reading and contributes to activities at Interop ITX, Black Hat, INsecurity, and ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
GitHub Named in Capital One Breach Lawsuit
Dark Reading Staff 8/14/2019
The Mainframe Is Seeing a Resurgence. Is Security Keeping Pace?
Ray Overby, Co-Founder & President at Key Resources, Inc.,  8/15/2019
The Flaw in Vulnerability Management: It's Time to Get Real
Jim Souders, Chief Executive Officer at Adaptiva,  8/15/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
7 Threats & Disruptive Forces Changing the Face of Cybersecurity
This Dark Reading Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at the biggest emerging threats and disruptive forces that are changing the face of cybersecurity today.
Flash Poll
The State of IT Operations and Cybersecurity Operations
The State of IT Operations and Cybersecurity Operations
Your enterprise's cyber risk may depend upon the relationship between the IT team and the security team. Heres some insight on what's working and what isn't in the data center.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-5034
PUBLISHED: 2019-08-20
An exploitable information disclosure vulnerability exists in the Weave Legacy Pairing functionality of Nest Cam IQ Indoor version 4620002. A set of specially crafted weave packets can cause an out of bounds read, resulting in information disclosure. An attacker can send packets to trigger this vuln...
CVE-2019-5035
PUBLISHED: 2019-08-20
An exploitable information disclosure vulnerability exists in the Weave PASE pairing functionality of the Nest Cam IQ Indoor, version 4620002. A set of specially crafted weave packets can brute force a pairing code, resulting in greater Weave access and potentially full device control. An attacker c...
CVE-2019-5036
PUBLISHED: 2019-08-20
An exploitable denial-of-service vulnerability exists in the Weave error reporting functionality of the Nest Cam IQ Indoor, version 4620002. A specially crafted weave packets can cause an arbitrary Weave Exchange Session to close, resulting in a denial of service. An attacker can send a specially cr...
CVE-2019-8103
PUBLISHED: 2019-08-20
Adobe Acrobat and Reader versions, 2019.012.20035 and earlier, 2019.012.20035 and earlier, 2017.011.30142 and earlier, 2017.011.30143 and earlier, 2017.011.30142 and earlier, 2015.006.30497 and earlier, and 2015.006.30498 and earlier have an out-of-bounds read vulnerability. Successful exploitation ...
CVE-2019-8104
PUBLISHED: 2019-08-20
Adobe Acrobat and Reader versions, 2019.012.20035 and earlier, 2019.012.20035 and earlier, 2017.011.30142 and earlier, 2017.011.30143 and earlier, 2017.011.30142 and earlier, 2015.006.30497 and earlier, and 2015.006.30498 and earlier have an out-of-bounds read vulnerability. Successful exploitation ...