An accounting clerk gets an email from the CEO of his company. He thinks it’s a little strange, but he proceeds to follow the instructions in the email to purchase several gift cards and reply back with the gift card ID numbers. When the clerk goes to the CEO a day later to ask about getting reimbursed for the gift cards, the CEO says, “What gift cards?”
If only the clerk had looked a little closer at the email address. The message that he thought came from an internal email, was only a very close look-alike. This deception worked because the clerk didn’t notice the small difference in the email domain address, so he didn’t question the legitimacy of the email or the sender. He fell for this phishing scam hook, line and sinker. (Pun intended!)
Watch Out for Imposter Domains
Phishing and the use of look-alike domains is a tried and true hacker tactic that plays on a victim’s perception and trust. In this phishing scenario, hackers are buying and using domain names that resemble to your real domain. They’ll skip a letter, transpose letters or replace letters with characters that look very similar. For example, using the letters “rn” to represent the letter “m” or the number “1” instead of lower case “l”. The choices of characters doesn't even have to be in the English language.
A huge surge in phishing is taking place in the world right now as cyber criminals exploit the COVID-19 situation, and they’re using look-alike domains for many of their scams. Through the use of these deceptive tactics, hackers are enticing people with promises of stimulus money and other attractive offers that get people to click, open, download, and respond in ways that lead to monetary gains for criminals.
Purchase Your Own Domain Look-Alikes
One way to spoil hacker attempts to mimic an internal email address is to control your domain neighborhood and take domain look-alikes off the market. Purchase them yourself and make sure that you don’t let your domains expire.
In order to figure out what domains you need to buy, get creative and experiment with different variations of letters and characters. For example, here at XPERTECHS we might purchase xpertek.com, expertechs.com, and xprtechs.com. These are close enough that the difference might not be noticeable with a quick glance.
Best Cybersecurity Approach is Layered
As with any security strategy, the way that you’re going to keep your data and business safe from this type of hacker tactic is to have multiple layers of security.
Utilize Advanced Technical Security
Technical layers of security include antivirus, antimalware, and spam filters. Keeping your software patched and up-to-date also plays a big role in keeping hackers out of your network. Make sure that your IT team has the capability to monitor network activity, detect intrusions, and use all of the security features in Microsoft 365 Business.
Cybersecurity Awareness Training
Providing employees with ongoing cybersecurity training will teach people how to recognize and respond to potential phishing attacks, and maintain their vigilance in practicing secure behaviors.
Establish and Maintain Security Policies
Remember that a good portion of your cybersecurity plan is not technical. In addition to cybersecurity awareness training, employees should be trained to handle data and network access in ways that don’t increase risk.
Need More Cybersecurity Peace of Mind?
If you’re not confident that your IT team has all the bases covered when it comes to cybersecurity, give us a call to schedule a security assessment.