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  • Credential theft is when fake webpages are created that look real for the sole purpose of stealing logins and passwords to access legitimate accounts.
  • The top targeted companies for phishing scams from credential theft include Paypal with 11,000 fake login pages, Microsoft with 9,500 fake pages, and Facebook 7,500 fake pages.
  • To prevent falling victim to a credential theft attack, consumers should not click on any links unless they know they are legitimate, double-check the email address of the sender, and change their password if they believe they used a fake login page.
  • For more information about the latest data breaches, consumers and businesses should visit the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) new data breach tracking tool, notifiedTM.
  • Victims of identity theft can contact the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530, or by using the live-chat function on the website.

Credential stuffing is a term consumers often hear from cybersecurity experts. Credential stuffing is a type of cyber attack where stolen credentials, like usernames and passwords, are used to gain access to other accounts that share the same credentials. There is another term not heard as much, but just as prevalent: credential theft.

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Every week the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) takes a look at the most interesting data compromises from the last week in our Weekly Breach Breakdown podcast. This week, we are talking about creating fake websites that look real for the sole purpose of stealing logins and passwords used to access legitimate accounts. We will look at how security researchers found tens of thousands of fake website login pages that are used to collect credentials from consumers.

Credential Theft

To commit a credential stuffing attack, a hacker must have credentials. Where do data thieves get the logins and passwords needed to fuel these attacks? The most obvious way is through data breaches everyone has seen over the years, where millions of credentials are stolen in a mass attack. However, there are less obvious ways, too. One of those less obvious ways is credential theft.

Earlier in 2020, security company IRONSCALES began to look for a specific kind of webpage; fake login pages that look like they could come from real companies. From January until June, IRONSCALES found more than 50,000 phony login pages from more than 200 recognizable brands with a high volume of web traffic.  

These fake login pages are used in phishing emails as a way of getting people to click on what they think is a legitimate login page. Most people cannot tell the login page is fake, leading unsuspecting victims to enter their real login and passwords into a fake webpage. That is all it takes for data thieves to have actual credentials from live accounts. They do not even have to buy or steal any data.

Top Targets for Phishing Scams

Anyone reading this blog might be wondering if they have ever clicked on an email link connected to an account. If they have, was it a real login page?

IRONSCALES reports that PayPal is the top target for phishing scams, with more than 11,000 fake login pages spoofing the brand. Microsoft is not far behind with 9,500 phony login pages. The list continues with Facebook with 7,500, eBay with 3,000 and Amazon with 1,500 known fake login pages. Other commonly spoofed brands include Adobe, Aetna, Apple, Alibaba, Delta Air Lines, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo.

All of these companies have people who do nothing but seek and shut-down these and other kinds of fake webpages, websites, social media accounts and text messages that are used to collect personal information from their legitimate customers and prospects. However, research shows that credential theft is easy for a couple of reasons. The first is because malicious phishing emails that deliver fake login pages can easily bypass cybersecurity tools and spam filters just by making small changes in the email.

Inattentional Blindness

The second reason is because of inattentional blindness; when something looks so familiar or causes you to focus so intently that you don’t see the apparent errors hiding in plain sight. An example of inattentional blindness comes from a study where people were told to watch a video to count the number of people wearing white jerseys as they passed a ball. More than 50 percent of people taking the test missed the fact that one of the players was wearing a gorilla suit.

How Inattentional Blindness Applies to Identity Theft

Credential theft attacks translate into the inability to spot the tell-tale signs of a phishing scheme, even among trained cybersecurity and fraud professionals. What should people do if they encounter what they believe is a phishing attack?

1. Don’t click on any links unless you are sure they are legitimate. When in doubt, navigate directly to the website or webpage you are trying to reach instead of using a link.

2. If the link arrives in an email, double-check the address of the sender. An email address can be masked to make it look legitimate in the sender line. However, if you click on the sender’s name to see the actual address, you may find the email from mybank.com is actually from bob@scams-r-us. Get into the habit of checking email addresses.

3. If you believe you used a fake login page, change your passwords and alert the security team at the company whose login page has been spoofed as soon as possible. While changing your password, consider switching to a 12-character passphrase with upper and lower case letters. It will take an automated hacker tool 300 years to break that passphrase, as well as be easier to remember.

notifiedTM

For more information about the latest data breaches, consumers and businesses should visit the ITRC’s new data breach tracking tool, notified. It is updated daily and free to consumers. Organizations that need comprehensive breach information for business planning or due diligence can access as many as 90 data points through one of the three paid notified subscriptions. Subscriptions help ensure the ITRC’s identity crime services stay free.

Contact the ITRC

If you believe you are the victim of an identity crime, or your identity has been compromised in a data breach, you can speak with an ITRC expert advisor by calling toll-free at 888.400.5530, or on the website via live-chat. Finally, victims of a data breach can download the free ID Theft Help app to access advisors, resources, a case log and much more.

Join us on our weekly data breach podcast to get the latest perspectives on the last week in breaches. Subscribe to get it delivered on your preferred podcast platform.


Read more of our latest breaches below

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Phishing attacks are nothing new. However, with scammers increasingly using sophisticated and new methods of harming recipients that experts are not as familiar with, being able to identify a phishing attack has never been more important. They can arrive as emails, texts, social media messages, phone calls or links to websites which appear to come from someone the victim knows or a legitimate business. It might look like a boss or co-worker, someone in an email contact list, a bank or a consumer’s favorite retailer.

Trusted brands are used to provide an air of credibility for scammers, who capitalize on the good reputation and relationships these brands have built. Some brands that have been used in phishing attacks to target consumers include Wells Fargo, Zoom, American Express, Apple and Microsoft. The companies being used are not involved in these scams; in many ways, they are victims of the scammer as much as the targeted consumer.

Every phishing attack has a different goal, depending on what kind of ruse they are using. Some use links or attachments to insert malicious code on the user’s device so they can collect more information. Others attempt to steal people’s personal and business usernames or passwords,  and others still try to get someone to click on a well-disguised link so they can divert them to a place where the user enters even more information that the fraudster will use to his or her benefit. While phishing attacks have different objectives, the attackers’ primary goal is to steal the information needed to scam individuals and businesses.

Fortunately, the age-old advice about avoiding a phishing attack still holds true. These are some things people should keep in mind when trying to identify a phishing attack.

Check the email address and URL to make sure it is not fake

Check unexpected inbound messages very carefully, paying special attention to the sender’s email or website address included in the message; they might notice something strange. If it says “Amaz0n.com,” for example, it is fake. If the website link is Citibank.card.shop.com (as an example), instead of the company’s actual web address, again, it is probably fake. Always go back to the source of the email (or in this case, the company that is being represented) and check for alerts about potential scams of which they are already aware. Many times, the company is aware and has posted information about the scam.

Never click on an unknown link or open an unexpected attachment

Received an unexpected email, text, social media message or phone call with a link or an attachment?  Consumers should reach out directly to the purported “source” of the communication to verify the validity of the message before clicking on a link or opening an attachment (as mentioned above). Clicking on a malicious link or opening a bogus attachment could lead to someone’s personal information being stolen or infect the device with malware.

Check the message for grammatical errors and awkward phrasing

Read unexpected messages carefully and with a critical eye. Grammatical errors and awkward language are two quick indicators that the email isn’t sent by the company indicated. In trying to identify a phishing attack, customers should remember that companies do not send out emails or other messages with glaring errors – in most cases, large, reputable companies have teams checking their communications for just those types of issues. Smaller businesses may have a looser communication style, but loyal customers will know if something is “off.”  If someone sees any strange mistakes, that is probably a sign it is a fake. In fact, sometimes spelling mistakes are intentional so that only more gullible recipients will interact.

Never trust the caller ID

Do not go by what the caller ID may say. It is easy for a scammer to change the phone number or screen name to say anything, like “IRS” or “County Sheriff’s Department.” If someone calls with an attempt to verify identity information or demands for some kind of payment, consumers should hang up immediately and initiate contact with the company directly using a verified phone number from a trusted source. Here’s a tip: people should put numbers in their contact list for companies that are used regularly – but name them something only they would identify. For example, list the bank as “Bank on 4th & Main St.” instead of by the bank’s name. That way, if there’s an inbound call from the number, the person receiving the call will know they can trust it.

Remember that in many cases, fraudsters are using websites that look like the companies they are pretending to be. A web search could also bring someone to a potential fraudulent site. People should always treat the search results with the same critical eye as they would these other steps.

Phishing attacks can be confusing because of how close to real they can look or sound. Scam websites, emails, phone calls and text messages that mimic trusted brands will continue. However, by implementing these tips to identify a phishing attack, it will help reduce the risk of falling for a phishing attack.

Anyone with additional questions about phishing attacks, or believes they have been a victim of one, can call the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free at 888.400.5530 to speak with an expert advisor. They can also use the live-chat feature on the website to get the help they need.


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