What Is a Spoofing Attack?
Spoofing is when bad actors impersonate another person or company. The attacker’s goal is to gain the confidence of the potential victim so they can access sensitive data or even insert malicious software.
How Does Spoofing Work?
Spoofing succeeds when a recipient of some form of business communication fails to exercise proper skepticism or is otherwise unable to unmask the identity of the individual or device making contact.
A caller says they work with your bank’s fraud department and asks you to verify information regarding a recent transaction. This caller, however, is a bad actor. To gain your trust, they have disguised their phone number to match or closely resemble your bank’s fraud department.
After they win your confidence, they use the information you provided to steal your funds.
There are several kinds of spoofing attacks. While some spoofing schemes are relatively easy to detect, many of the more sophisticated schemes often go undetected and prove highly lucrative for the perpetrators.
5 Types of Spoofing Attacks
Caller ID Spoofing
When scammers use this approach, your phone’s caller ID displays your bank’s phone number or a number that varies by only one or two digits. The cybercriminal caller then pretends to be from your bank and uses the call to extract personal information you would only disclose to your bank.
Text Message Spoofing
A variation of the caller ID attack is text message spoofing. In this type of attack, the criminals mask their identity when they send you a text, masquerading as your bank or other entity you would routinely trust.
The attacker will then ask for personal information, such as your Social Security number, mother’s maiden name, or some other form of personally identifiable information.
Cybercriminals also pretend to be someone else when they send you a spoofed email. They spoof emails, for example, to trick you into installing malware, adware, and ransomware. Email spoofing is also used in phishing and spear phishing attacks.
Email spoofing can be particularly difficult to detect, as most users open emails without pausing to assess their legitimacy.
Email spoofing schemes often also go to great lengths to look legitimate and may, for example, incorporate a company’s logo and follow the format it typically uses in email communications to create the illusion the email was sent by the company itself.
IP spoofing attempts to change the location of where a user’s device is connecting to a network. For example, if an attacker compromises your login credentials and attempts to log in overseas, your company may flag that activity as an exception worth investigating further.
However, if the attacker spoofs their IP address, they can appear to be in the United States and therefore seem to be connected via a routine login.
IP spoofing is also used when a company is blocking all login activity from devices overseas during a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. To avoid being blocked, an attacker may use IP spoofing to make the devices involved in the attack appear to originate from the United States.
When criminals spoof a website, their goal is to convince visitors that the site is legitimate, so that visitors feel they can interact and take in the online experience with confidence.
If the fake site doesn’t trigger warning bells, a visitor may end up providing a username, password, and other sensitive data, such as a company ID number or a one-time password. With this data in hand, criminals can log in to your existing account and assume control of it.
Simultaneously, cybercriminals might also deploy malicious software on your device to increase the depth and severity of their attack. This may allow them, for example, to record logins and passwords for additional accounts, such as your company’s bank or credit card accounts.
How To Defend Against Spoofing Attacks
Given the diversity of spoofing attacks, anti-spoofing efforts should cover a broad range of tools and technology. Your multi-pronged approach to combating spoofing campaigns should also include user education in the form of security awareness training so employees learn to detect and avoid interacting with spoofed communications in whatever form they appear.
What is Packet Filtering?
One example of anti-spoofing technology is packet filtering, which makes it possible to analyze the header and content of IP packets. If headers do not correspond to their origin, the packet is rejected. And instead of relying exclusively on IP addresses to authenticate a user, which an attacker can spoof, additional layers of authentication at the user or device level can help combat attacks.
Dedicated, spoofing-detection software can examine the data elements that attackers manipulate in spoofing attacks, such as address resolution protocols, to convince your network to grant access to a device.
6 Ways to Prevent a Spoofing Attack
Since spoofing comes in many forms, so too do the countermeasures. Anti-spoofing countermeasures can help ensure that trust is never given when it is not deserved.
- Educate and test users regularly on the characteristics of a spoofing scheme and how they should respond. Examples should include spoofed emails, phone calls, text messages, and websites.
- Install antivirus software, firewalls, and a spoof detection tool.
- Virtual private networks (VPNs) are another tool you should consider for thwarting spoofing attacks.
- Deploy additional authentication layers to validate the device and user independently of their IP address. That way, you’re not relying exclusively on IP addresses to authenticate users and devices.
- Encrypt data at rest and in transit to prevent attackers from stealing and monetizing data.
- Use an access control list to manage incoming and outgoing network traffic more securely.
Whether a spoofing attack involves people, technology, or a combination of factors, once an attacker establishes trust, they can leverage that trust to engage in all manner of schemes. Spoofing enables an attacker to develop trust and win their intended victim’s confidence.
Effective security awareness training programs for your employees is also an important step to identifying and stopping a spoofing attack. With microlearning, instant follow-up lessons, and security experts who guide you through the security awareness training process, your employees can make continuous improvements in understanding what threats are out there and how to respond.