Machine identity protection provider Venafi has released research on the explosion of lookalike domains, which are routinely used to steal sensitive data from online shoppers.
Venafi’s research analysed suspicious domains targeting the top 20 retailers in five key markets: the US, UK, France, Germany and Australia.
As the rate of online shopping increases, customers are being targeted through lookalike domains.
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 makes it 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.
Venafi senior threat intelligence analyst Jing Xie says, “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 against this very common technique.”
“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, this is a really bad idea.”
Xie says, “No organisation should rely exclusively on certificate authorities to detect suspicious certificate requests.”
“For example, cyber attackers recently set up a lookalike domain for NewEgg, a website with over 50 million visitors a month. The lookalike 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.”
According to Venafi’s research, there has been an explosion in the number of potentially fraudulent domains.
There are more than double the number of lookalike domains compared to legitimate domains, and every online retailer studied is being targeted.
Key findings from the research include:
As the holiday shopping season approaches, there will likely be an increase in lookalike domains. For online retailers that discover malicious domains, they can take several steps to protect their customers:
“Ultimately, we should expect even more malicious lookalike websites designed for social engineering to pop up in the future,” says Xie.
“In order to protect themselves, enterprises need effective means to discover domains that have a high probability of being malicious through monitoring and analysing 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.”