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12 October 2022 - 6 minutes

What Is Spoofing And How to Prevent It?

Spoofing sounds like something out of a comedy sketch, but it’s actually a much nastier activity!

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What Is Spoofing?

Spoofing is a cybercrime that involves someone pretending to be a trusted contact or brand to gain access to sensitive personal information. While phishing involves sending messages with links designed to get a user to click and share information, spoofing takes the scam to another level. Spoofing involves disguising a malicious website, text, or other network entrypoint as a legitimate, well-known brand with the aim of tricking people into voluntarily giving up sensitive information. 

Different Types of Spoofing

There are a few different types of spoofing, including website spoofing, text message or SMS spoofing, man in the middle (MitM) attack spoofing and even facial recognition spoofing. Let’s look at each variety in detail. 

H3 Website spoofing

Website spoofing is when a cybercriminal creates a website designed to look like a known brand or company site, and even recreate a domain that is similar to the trusted brand. The objective is to attract a brand’s customers, suppliers, partners and employees to false websites so they will voluntarily share information including login credentials, social security numbers, credit card information or bank account numbers.

Website spoofing is a serious crime that involves hackers taking over a company's intellectual property (IP) including logos, existing content, product identification information, and sometimes even domain names. While the main goal is to obtain sensitive data, spoofed websites may also infect hardware with malware. 

Brands need to be extremely careful to monitor their sites and detect spoofing instances to protect their reputations. Spoofed websites steal sales that should go to the brand itself, which already impacts the bottom line. On top of that, when customers purchase merchandise from a spoofed website and receive falsely branded products or merchandise, they’re unlikely to purchase from the brand again. Once a bad taste is in a customer’s mouth, they’re probably gone for good. 

Text message spoofing

Text message spoofing is a little trickier to identify. This type of spoofing is extremely easy to execute since there are thousands of services available online to mask phone numbers and send messages. Text message or SMS spoofing involves changing sender details like a phone number or contact name to commit fraud. 

An extremely common example of this type of spoofing is the Santander bank scam. Mobile phone users receive text messages from users purporting to require additional information to maintain access to their Santander bank account. However, we know from experience that many of those mobile phone users don’t even have Santander accounts! The messages are meant to elicit sensitive personal data and hack an account in case one does exist. 

There are a few different kinds of text message spoofing fraud. They include sending a phishing scam as a reputable company (as we saw in our example), asking for money as a friend or family member, or making personal attacks on someone’s character using a false identity. SMS or text spoofing is extremely hard to identify, especially when it comes out of the blue. That is its main differentiating factor from other types of spoofing.

MitM attack

MitM stands for Man in the Middle, and refers to a kind of cyber attack where a cybercriminal intervenes between two parties’ communications. They intercept messages and manipulate them, while the communicating parties believe they are having a private, secured interaction. It’s a kind of cyber-eavesdropping that allows the attacker to manipulate the conversation. 

MitM attacks can take a few different forms. They may try to access private information, or spy on private meetings like boardroom meetings at major companies, financial institutions, or governments. The attacker may engage in wi-fi eavesdropping, DNS spoofing, IP spoofing, HTTPS spoofing, ARP spoofing, Email hacking, session hijacking, or SSL stripping.

Facial spoofing

Facial spoofing is where a hacker's sophistication is really highlighted. This kind of spoofing involves imitating a person’s face to pretend to be that person and gain access to data using biometric identification control systems. This type of spoofing can be used to commit financial fraud by gaining bank access, and can also be used for digital identity theft.

Facial spoofing has become more popular in recent years as technology continues to improve, which is why online applications increasingly require more stringent identification verification checks when setting up sensitive account information. Organizations that may host sensitive data need to have mechanisms to certify that a person is who they say they are, that they are not being forced to self-identify, and that any imaging is not a deep-fake. Controlling the online image environment continues to increase in difficulty. 

How Spoofing Works and How to Detect It

As we’ve described with the different types of spoofing, the tactic involves using trusted, well-known brands, user information or images to trick victims into voluntarily sharing sensitive data that can then lead to a variety of more sinister threats. 

So how does spoofing work? 

Let’s start with the basics. Data that is communicated over the internet is broken up into packets that are sent individually on their own and then reassembled at endpoints to complete the communication. Each packet has its own Internet Protocol (IP) address encompassing information regarding the source IP and the destination IP. 

With spoofing, hackers are able to modify the sources IP in the packet information to trick the receiving system and convince it that the data is coming from a trusted sources. Since the tampering happens at a network level, there are no clear signs of any tampering. This kind of data manipulation can help hackers get past IP address authentication checks which is why we increasingly see more multi-step authentication with most apps pertaining to healthcare or banking in particular.

How to Protect Against Spoofing

First, look for the obvious signs of spoofing! A very common red flag involves messaging with poor spelling, multiple grammar mistakes, and awkward spacing. Also be sure that the coloring and logo on a website, email message or text message are in line with the brand that you’re dealing with. 

Another great solution is packet filtering, since it can filter and block packets that have conflicting information sources. Cryptographic network protocols like HTTP Secure (HTTPS) and Secure Shell (SSH) give your network added levels of security. 

Virtual private networks (VPNs) are another added protection to save yourself from spoofing attacks. VPNs keep your network protected using encryption, so even if there is an attack, the attacker can’t access your database and steal sensitive information. 

Now that you’ve got a better idea of what spoofing is, how it occurs, and how it can be prevented. you’re another step in the right direction on your cybersecurity career journey. The more you know, the better you can show off your cybersecurity skills and wow your colleagues! Great job taking the initiative to boost your career in cybersecurity. 

Remember, Ironhack is here to help you as you develop and grow your skill set. Get started on your Cyber career with a Cybersecurity Bootcamp!

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