Spoofing, in the field of cybersecurity, is the act of disguising communication from a malicious source so it appears to be from someone the target knows and trusts. It helps the attacker access computers, obtain sensitive information, launch malware attacks, and disrupt operations.
For example, you receive an email from your bank asking you to resubmit your account access information for some bogus reason. You recognize the email address, so you willingly oblige. But later, your credit card bills you for items you never purchased. You’ve been hacked!
The act of spoofing is like the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing ruse. The timeless fable tells of a wolf who comes disguised as a sheep, fools the shepherd, and successfully devours his prey.
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Read More about Spoofing
Spoofing is a widely known trick threat actors use. Learn more about it below.
How Does Spoofing Work?
Spoofing begins with the intention of making a message appear legitimate to gain the trust of a target. Threat actors do that by pretending to be someone or something else, such as a high-ranking official or the technical support department of a company.
For example, targets may receive a message from their company CEO requesting confidential company data. In other instances, they may receive an email or a text message from their banks informing them of a recent transaction.
When the victims begin trusting the actor behind the communication, they get urged to give out personal information or perform actions like sending money or downloading a malicious file.
What Are the Types of Spoofing?
Spoofing can come in several forms, including:
- Email spoofing: This type involves sending emails and making them appear to come from a legitimate source the victim will likely recognize, such as a bank, credit card company, supplier, or business partner. Threat actors do that by:
- Spoofing the sender’s name: There are instances when threat actors spoof the sender’s display name, making the sender field look like “Wells Fargo <info@gertefin[.]com>.”
- Spoofing the email domain: Threat actors make communications more believable by using email domains that closely resemble the imitated entities. For example, they may send a message from creditcardpayments@welllsfargo[.]co. Note the three lowercase ls and the use of .co instead of .com) to imitate Wells Fargo.
- Website spoofing: In this type, threat actors create a fake website that looks similar to the imitated one. In the welllsgargo[.]co example, a dedicated web page sporting Wells Fargo’s logo and colors may be created to make the spoofing more believable.
- Caller ID spoofing: This spoofing occurs when a caller makes it look like a phone call is coming from a different number. The caller falsifies the details displayed in the caller ID to trick a victim into answering the phone. They may deliberately spoof the number of a local company or government organization to steal money or valuable information.
What Is the Difference between Spoofing and Phishing?
The difference between spoofing and phishing is that spoofing is a tool, while phishing is a type of cyber attack. While they are similar concepts scammers and cybercriminals use, their fundamental differences lie in their goals.
Spoofing aims to masquerade as a legitimate entity to gain a victim’s trust. Threat actors can do that by deliberately making their email, phone number, or website appear similar to the imitated organization or person.
Meanwhile, phishing aims to trick a target into doing a specific action, such as clicking a link, opening an attachment, or filling out a form. Phishers employ several methods to lure victims, and spoofing is one of them.
How to Protect against Spoofing
Spoofing attacks can be tricky, but here are some steps you can take to protect yourself.
- Don’t trust the From field alone: Just because an email appears to come from someone you know doesn’t mean it is. Check the sender’s email address carefully for misspellings or unusual domains. Look for inconsistencies like a generic name instead of a specific person’s name.
- Verify the sender’s identity: If you’re unsure, contact the sender through a trusted channel like a phone call you initiated to confirm the email’s legitimacy.
- Scrutinize the message: Look for spelling and grammatical errors and unusual phrases and sentences. These are initial indicators that a sender is only pretending to be someone legitimate.
Spoofing is one of the most common tools threat actors use, mainly because it can be effective when planned carefully. Falling for spoofing tactics can result in data theft and other harmful consequences.