Cybersecurity is a major concern in today’s digital world. Cybercriminals are constantly trying to bypass security measures and harvest sensitive information from their victims. Spoofing is one popular form of identity theft that has recently been adopted by attackers.
It plays on human psychology and fools the victims into trusting the attackers with sensitive information or access to networks and devices. Once they’re in, cybercriminals can do a whole lot of damage before the threat is successfully neutralized.
But prevention is the best medication for spoofing. So this article will take you through what spoofing is, the three key types of spoofing, the consequences of the attack, as well as the importance of spoofing prevention.
Let’s get started!
What is Spoofing?
Spoofing is the act of imitating someone or something to try and deceive other people into believing that the spoof is the real thing. It is disguising itself as a trusted organization or entity to gain people’s trust.
In cybersecurity, spoofing is the technique used by fraudsters to gain access to systems, steal money or data, or introduce malware to the victim. Similar to phishing attacks, the cybercriminal masquerades as a reputable entity to get you to do something harmful to yourself but beneficial to them.
Types of Spoofing
When answering the question “What is spoofing?” we must discuss the different types of spoofing that companies and individuals may fall victim to.
Email spoofing is one of the most common types of spoofing attacks today. This makes sense since email is now a key channel of communication between brands and their customers and partners. Also, email is an integral component in any e-commerce and SaaS marketing strategy employed by many companies.
With almost everything hinging on email, recipients can easily fall victim to email spoofing if they are not careful.
Hackers pull off email spoofing by altering the “From” field of the malicious email message to match that of a trusted entity. They can also mimic the name and email address of a reputable entity to trick the recipient.
For example, the hacker can replace the letter O in an email address bar with the number zero (0). They can also replace uppercase letters with lowercase ones and vice versa to trick the reader. This is called visual spoofing.
Therefore, poor spelling or poor grammar is a major red flag that you may be the target of a spoofing attack. There are also cases where the fake email address of a phishing email doesn’t match the company name.
Social engineering techniques can also be applied to convince the reader to give personal information and data to the cybercriminal. The aim is to trick the recipient into believing that the email is from a trusted source and get them to take a certain action.
Therefore, as part of your email campaigns, be clear about your branding and intentional about the emails you send to your customers. This will help minimize spoofing risks. To further protect your email communication, be aware of common email marketing mistakes that can inadvertently make your emails look like spoofing attempts.
Caller ID Spoofing
Caller ID spoofing happens when a scammer falsifies the information that is displayed on the recipient’s caller ID display. In other words, they cause the caller ID to display a phone number and caller information that’s familiar to the receiver.
Once the receiver answers the phone call (thinking it’s someone they know), the hacker usually poses as a customer support agent. The aim is to bypass consumer data protection protocols and gather personal information like:
- Social security numbers
- Banking details
- Dates of birth
- Account information
- Unique, one-time access codes
This is information they can use to the detriment of the victim.
Also known as IP spoofing, GPS spoofing works by altering a device’s GPS to register a different location from the user’s physical location. This is achieved through the use of a counterfeit radio signal that is transmitted to the receiver’s antenna. The signal overrides the legitimate GPS satellite and counterfeits the attacker’s location.
GPS or IP address spoofing can be used by various individuals or groups for different purposes, such as hiding one's location with a VPN, a method typically used by online gamers. This is because they typically don’t like their actual locations being known by their opponents. However, there have been more dangerous applications of this type of spoofing.
For example, GPS spoofing has been used to redirect the navigation systems of personal vehicles, public buses, commercial airlines, naval vessels, and more.
Extension spoofing happens when a cybercriminal disguises executable malware files to trick the user into clicking to open the malware. This is done by adding an extension at the end of the file. Since Windows hides the file extension by default, the user will not be aware that the file is an extension.
For example, let’s say the file being sent is named “Audit Report 2023.” Cybercriminals will create a file named “auditreport2023.txt.exe.” However, to the user, the file will appear on Windows as “auditreport2023.txt.” This makes it difficult for users to know which file is legitimate and which one isn’t. Here’s an example.
Windows users can disable the feature of hiding extensions to help them see Trojan files that carry malware. However, there are several other types of extension spoofing that can remain undetectable to the human eye.
An example of extension spoofing that can be undetectable is when hackers embed executable files in files like a pdf or jpg image. This is why it is crucial to have file-scanning software on your device for all company emails.
So, in addition to checking the file extension of each document you want to download, never download an extension you don’t recognize. Also, never download any file from an unknown source without scanning it with antivirus software.
Web spoofing is another social engineering trick perpetrated by cybercriminals on unsuspecting victims. It occurs when scammers create a website for their criminal activity.
The goal of the cybercriminal is to trick the brand’s customers, partners, employees, and suppliers into visiting a fake website and giving away their sensitive information. This information can be their social security numbers, login credentials, bank account numbers, or credit card information.
What’s even more concerning is that even amateur hackers can execute website spoofing attacks. They simply register a domain for their criminal activities. They can do this through cybersquatting or typosquatting.
Cybersquatting sees a cybercriminal using a registered domain and presenting it as a real site. Typosquatting, on the other hand, sees cybercriminals using a misspelled version of a brand’s address. So, at first glance, you’d think the created domain was the same domain as that of the trusted brand. Here are some examples of typosquatting.
With their sites in place, cybercriminals then use phishing emails to lure site visitors and customers to them and get them to submit their information.
Since website spoofing happens outside an organization’s security perimeter, it is quite difficult to identify. It is usually only uncovered after several users have fallen victim to it and complained about it.
It is advisable to use software that can help you find and neutralize website spoofing attacks. The software will help extend your company’s security defenses beyond your current perimeter.
It can also stop active scams, block suspicious domains, and limit the value and use of the data collected by scammers in web spoofing attacks.
Consequences of Spoofing
What is spoofing? What’s clear is that successful spoofing attacks can have harmful effects on the victim. First of all, victims of spoofing end up losing sensitive personal information. This information can be used to access personal accounts or create fake profiles that may be used to conduct illegal business.
Credentials can also be harvested by cybercriminals to be used in further cyber attacks. For instance, let’s say the login credentials of a top company employee have been harvested. This account can be used to send false information to customers. This prompts them to transact with the criminal while thinking they are speaking to the employee directly.
Financial crimes may also result from spoofing. Crimes like stealing credit card information, taking real estate, and performing transactions without the real owner’s consent can be done. Money laundering methods are used by spoofers to turn dirty money into clean money.
For instance, spoofers can sell inventories taken from online video games on the black market at lower prices to “clean” their money.
The spread of malware and viruses is also a consequence of spoofing. Once the attacker gains access to the victim’s devices, they can send a virus to the device to compromise the victim’s assets. Ransomware can also be sent to the victim through spoofing. In this way, the victim will have to pay the attacker to have their devices and assets released.
Cybercriminals can also bypass access controls and gain unauthorized network access through spoofing. These are cybersecurity breaches that need to be addressed ASAP before the criminals get to do a lot of damage to digital company assets.
Importance of Spoofing Prevention
Knowing what we now know, it’s obvious why anyone would want to prevent a spoofing attack. The main reason is to protect your digital assets. There is nothing worse than having your private information, (personal or company info), leaked and accessible to anyone who can bid for it.
This not only compromises your cybersecurity but also endangers your physical assets. Speaking of physical assets, spoofing prevention will help you protect your properties and finances from money laundering and asset liquidation. Simply put, you’ll safeguard your assets and finances from being sold or stolen by unknown people.
You’ll also prevent the spread of malware and ransomware to your company and personal devices.
Spoofing prevention also helps protect your employees, customers, partners, and stakeholders from scams that use domains and sites that resemble yours. This helps you manage privileged access and keeps them from sharing confidential information and access credentials with the wrong site while thinking it’s your official site.
Some of the ways you can prevent spoofing attacks include:
- Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) - This keeps your traffic protected via encryption. In other words, even if you fall victim to ARP spoofing, your data will be encrypted, therefore, inaccessible to the attacker.
- Packet filtering - This method filters all incoming packets and stops compromised packets from unknown sources. This makes it easier for you to fight off an ARP attack if it occurs.
- Authentication - If you authenticate every interaction between devices on your network, you can ensure that nothing has been spoofed. Two-factor authentication is one step in safeguarding your accounts and mobile devices.
- Using spoof detection tools - These tools inspect data and block all illegitimate data from accessing the user’s devices and networks.
- Install a firewall on your network - This keeps intruders out while ensuring those authorized to use the networks are kept safe.
- Have a strong password manager - This protects your passwords from being viewed or accessed by unauthorized persons.
- Don’t click on random email links - especially from unknown senders. You could add spam filters to your preferred email app for an extra layer of security.
As they say, better safe than sorry. It is more effective to prevent spoofing attacks than to deal with them once you’ve already been attacked.
Should You Fear Spoofing?
Now you are aware that spoofing is the act of imitating someone or something to try and deceive other people.
Attackers hide their real identities to gain access to systems, steal money or data, or introduce malware to the victim. We’ve discussed three common types of spoofing: email spoofing, caller ID spoofing, and GPS spoofing.
Spoofing can cause loss of personal and company information, financial crimes, and unauthorized network access. Cybercriminals can also bypass access controls and spread malware through spoofing.
It is better to prevent spoofing rather than handle it once the attack has already been launched. Therefore, you can integrate cybersecurity into your business, by installing a firewall on your network, using spoof detection tools, authenticating device interactions, and using packet filtering and VPNs.