As the rate of online shopping increases, customers are being targeted through the use of look-alike domains that are routinely used to steal sensitive data from online shoppers. Cyber attackers create these fake domains by substituting a few characters in the URLs.
Because they point to malicious online shopping sites that mimic legitimate, well-known retail websites, it has become increasingly difficult for customers to detect the fake domains. Additionally, given that many of these malicious pages use a trusted TLS certificate, they appear to be safe for online shoppers who unknowingly provide sensitive account information and payment data.
“Domain spoofing has always been a cornerstone technique of web attacks that focus on social engineering, and the movement to encrypt all web traffic does not shield legitimate retailers from this very common technique,” says Jing Xie, senior threat intelligence analyst for Venafi.“Because malicious domains now must have a legitimate TLS certificate in order to function, many companies feel that certificate issuers should own the responsibility of vetting the security of these certificates. In spite of significant advances in the best practices followed by certificate issuers, retailers still need to take an active role in protecting their own sites against look-alike scams.”
Venafi recently released research which analyzed suspicious domains targeting the top 20 retailers in five key markets: the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Australia. According to the research, there has been an explosion in the number of potentially fraudulent domains. There are more than double the number of look-alike domains compared to legitimate domains, and every online retailer studied is being targeted.
Key findings from the research include:
“No organization should rely exclusively on certificate authorities to detect suspicious certificate requests,” continued Xie. “For example, cyber attackers recently set up a look-alike domain for NewEgg, a website with over 50 million visitors a month. The look-alike domain used a trusted TLS certificate issued by the CA who followed all the best practices and baseline requirements. This phishing website was used to steal account and credit card data for over a month before it was shut down by security researchers.”
As the holiday shopping season approaches, there will likely be an increase in look-alike domains. For online retailers that discover malicious domains, they can take several steps to protect their customers:
Search and report suspicious domains using Google Safe Browsing.Google Safe Browsing is an industry anti-phishing service that identifies and blacklists dangerous websites.Retailers can report a domain at https://safebrowsing.google.com/safebrowsing/report_general/.
“Ultimately, we should expect even more malicious lookalike websites designed for social engineering to pop up in the future,” concluded Xie. “In order to protect themselves, enterprises need effective means to discover domains that have a high probability of being malicious through monitoring and analyzing certificate transparency logs. This way they can leverage many recent industry advances to spot high-risk certificate registrations, crippling malicious sites before they cause damage by taking away their certificates.”
How do you protect yourself from look-alike domains?