‘Spoofing’ attacks, in which a hacker impersonates a trusted source, are an increasingly common phishing method. These attacks rose by 61% in the latter half of 2022, enabled by increasingly sophisticated spoofing techniques.
Spoofing represents a big threat to businesses. Through spoofing, attackers can gain access to all kinds of sensitive data, including employee credentials, which can be used to access and sabotage vital systems. So, it’s essential that organizations understand how to identify and prevent this.
Here, we’ll take you through some of the most common types and look at how to prevent spoofing attacks.
In this blog, we'll cover:
- Getting to know the different types of spoofing attacks
- Authentication measures and implementation
- Employee education on phishing and social engineering tactics
- 3 strategies to prevent email spoofing
- 3 quick tips to arm your business against caller ID spoofing
- IP address spoofing risk mitigation
- Enforced security updates and audits
- Continuous employee training
- Response and recovery
Getting to know the different types of spoofing attacks
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Spoofing attacks can happen at any point where a hacker could impersonate a trusted individual or source. Common types of spoofing attacks include:
Email spoofingThis involves a hacker creating or mimicking a trusted email address. For example, they may create an account that looks like it comes from a high-ranking executive. The hacker will then use this email address to impersonate the source and gain inside information or even funds from employees.
Website spoofingWebsite spoofers create websites that mimic trusted and legitimate websites. When users log into the mimic website, the spoofer gains their login details. For example, a spoofer may create a website that mimics your employee portal down to the last detail. When employees log in to the spoofed portal, the hacker can see their login information.
IP spoofingIP spoofing is an intricate process that involves changing the IP address of a hacker’s device so it can fool otherwise secure networks. Often, corporate security protocols are set up to only allow connection from pre-approved IP addresses. By spoofing the IP address, a hacker can get past these security measures
Caller ID spoofingCaller ID spoofers engineer their caller IDs to appear as though they’re coming from a trusted person or source (a bank, for example). People are more likely to answer calls from IDs they recognize, at which point the spoofer can try and convince them to divulge secure information or send funds.
These are just 4 of the most common types of spoofing attacks. There are many more, though, including ARP spoofing, DNS spoofing, GPS spoofing, and so on.
Authentication measures and implementation
The only surefire way to prevent spoofing attacks is to be exhaustive and rigorous with authentication measures and implementation. This may include:
- applying all available authentication protocols to your email and messaging systems
- having dual or even triple-factor verification protocols to log into secure systems
- looking into ‘un-spoofable’ factors, such as biometric identification
- checking all URLs, email addresses, phone numbers, etc. thoroughly, and
- educating employees on phishing and social engineering tactics.
Of these, employee education is probably the most important.
Employee education on phishing and social engineering tactics
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Phishing and spoofing attacks are specifically designed to exploit basic human weaknesses and vulnerabilities. So, the best way to stop spoofers and phishers in their tracks is to educate your employees on what these criminals are looking for. For example:
A lack of thoroughnessA lot of spoofers rely on people not thoroughly inspecting the email address, phone number, or URL. By scrutinizing these things every single time, a lot of spoofing attacks can be spotted immediately.
PanicSpoofers will often try to create a sense of urgency to prevent people from thinking too hard about what they’re doing. They may say they’re in an emergency situation and need X information and/or money RIGHT NOW. By keeping a cool head and not acting out of panic, employees can spot the telltale signs of a spoofer.
KindnessSpoofers may come up with a story that encourages us to act out of basic human goodness. For example, a hacker may use a spoofed employee email to say something like “Hey, I know this is unorthodox, but I lost X data and will get in real trouble if I turn up to the next meeting without it. Could you do me a solid and send it to me?”
To educate your employees, consider running phishing simulations on common phishing tactics and give them the tools they need to avoid these.
3 strategies to prevent email spoofing
Email spoofing is a particularly common phishing tactic. Email spoofers can be incredibly convincing, but there are ways to prevent them from gaining access to your systems. Here are three strategies that can help:
Authentication protocolsThere are several email authentication protocols (SPF, DKIM, DMARC, and BIMI). Get them all in order to make your emails as un-spoofable as possible.
Security awareness trainingDeliver as much of it as your staff can stand and as often as possible. usecure provides security awareness training to ensure end users know how to identify and report potential threats. In addition, our phishing simulation tool can be configured to automatically send realistic-looking phishing emails to employees to test their responses.
Anti-spoofing softwareThis is designed to detect and block suspicious emails that attempt to impersonate trusted senders or manipulate email headers. By analyzing email content, headers, and sender information, anti-spoofing software can identify and quarantine potentially malicious emails, preventing them from reaching the recipient's inbox.
3 quick tips to arm your business against caller ID spoofing
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Caller ID spoofing works best when a hacker spoofs an organization, as people won’t necessarily recognize the voices of individual brand representatives. But, that doesn’t mean hackers won’t ever try to impersonate trusted individuals over the phone.
To protect against caller ID spoofing, follow these three tips:
Do not share work numbers
Don’t share work numbers with just anyone. This includes things like giving work phone numbers on delivery forms or in online competitions.
Check all incoming call numbersEncourage employees to check all incoming call numbers very carefully, even if they think they know the person or organization.
Hang up and call backIf anyone requests sensitive information over the phone, insist employees hang up and call the individual/organisation back (from their contacts list or a listed number rather than redial). If the call is genuine, the transaction can continue as normal. If not, the new call will reach the genuine person/organization, and the scam will be exposed.
IP address spoofing risk mitigation
It’s not easy to prevent IP spoofing, as it’s such a deep and insidious thing. But there are a few things you can do to mitigate the risk:
Network monitoring toolsThere are various tools that can monitor your system and flag issues. Packet filtering systems are especially good at detecting IP inconsistencies.
Robust verificationEven among networked computers, deploy extra verification factors to make sure only authorized users are accessing your systems.
Stay behind a firewallPutting your most secure resources behind a firewall. This will give your anti-spoofing systems some reinforcement.
Use IPv6Make sure your systems are on IPv6 (the latest Internet Protocol). IPv6 has extra encryption and authentication steps that can stop IP spoofers in their tracks.
Enforced security updates and audits
New spoofing and phishing techniques can evolve quickly. To keep them at bay, you need your systems to be fighting fit at all times. This means updating them the second new updates are released. It also means running frequent audits to check for system vulnerabilities.
We all know how annoying it can be to have update screens pop up when you’re right in the middle of something. But in this case, it’s worth removing the option to delay updates and set the system up to immediately upgrade itself.
If security audits are a nuisance for you, the right technology can help. For example, an ERP system from Sage gives you an overview of your business and will help you to keep track of your security audit process. You can combine this with calendar or HR software to make sure reminders and schedules are in place, so you’ll never have to worry about missing an update.
Continuous employee training
Anti-spoofing training should begin right at the start of an employee’s tenure (perhaps even before then). All new hires need to be well-versed in cybersecurity and anti-spoofing protocols right from the start.
A digital recruiting system can help here. Through digital recruiting software, you can set up a tailored onboarding that stresses the risk of spoofing attacks and keeps track of who has had what training on an ongoing basis
All employees should be regularly reminded of the need to stay safe during communications. You should also make time for regular anti-spoofing and cybersecurity training at intervals throughout the year.
Similarly, whenever your security systems or protocols update, all employees should be walked through these changes and given a refresher on how to keep systems safe.
Response and recovery
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Spoofing and phishing attacks can be highly sophisticated. Even with the best anti-spoofing systems in place, you can still fall victim.
The good news is that it’s possible to recover from spoofing and phishing attacks with the right response. Here are some steps to follow if a hacker does get through:
Disconnect from the hackerThis may be as simple as hanging up the phone or as complex as disconnecting your systems from the internet.
Change passwordsChange all passwords, and get your employees to change all their passwords as well.
Run a malware scanThis is a crucial and easy step in maintaining a secure and healthy computing environment.
Look for suspicious transactions or proceduresFor example, check your accounts for strange withdrawals, and run through system logs to see who’s accessed secure databases and when. Adjust and reset your security systems.
Gather informationGather as much information about the attack as you can, including the source, how the hacker was able to exploit your system, and what (if anything) was taken.
Communicate with employeesTalk to employees about the incident, and schedule more anti-spoofing training.
Contact relevant partiesIf any customer or organization data is stolen, contact the relevant parties.
Report the incident if necessaryFor example, in the USA, you may need to report the incident to the FTC, In the UK, you’ll need to contact the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
Because it plays on human vulnerabilities, spoofing is a particularly insidious form of phishing. That said, with the right knowledge, training, software, and protocols, you can protect your business from attacks and recover quickly if a cybercriminal ever does get through.