Playing pretend is often perceived as a child's game.
Or for those of us who really love dressing up for Halloween.
Unfortunately, it’s not always fun and games - as hackers often play pretend to trick their victims into giving them exactly what they’re looking for: money, personal information, and more This is called spoofing and happens every day, not just on Halloween.
Thankfully, there are specific types of spoofing tactics you can watch out for, as well as specific ways you can protect yourself, and your network, from these hackers. To ensure you don’t fall victim to a spoofing attack, keep reading!
What is spoofing?
Spoofing is coordinated attack against your network security when someone or something pretends to be someone or something they are not in an attempt to gain access to your systems, steal your data, or gain your confidence.
What is an example of spoofing?
An example of spoofing is when an email is sent from a false sender address, that asks the recipient to provide sensitive data. This email could also contain a link to a malicious website that contains malware.
It happens more often than you think, and while the term spoofing may make you think of a skit from SNL or a song from Weird Al Yankovic, it’s much more than that, and a lot less fun.
Types of spoofing attacks
There’s always more than one way to hack someone, and with spoofing, there are many different methods and channels a hacker might use to scam their victim. Let’s explore some of the most popular spoofing methods.
1. Email spoofing
Email spoofing is when an attacker sends emails with false sender addresses, which is typically part of a phishing scam. These types of spoofing attacks are designed to steal your information, infect your computer with malware, or simply blackmail you for money. These emails may also use social engineering to convince the victim to freely disclose sensitive information.
In addition to a false sender address, keep an eye out for red flags in these emails like typos, missing logos, addressing you as “customer” instead of your real name, or a blackmail attempt.
Related: One way to avoid email spoofing is to use email anti-spam software that will filter email content for malware, viruses, and other suspicious activity. If you aren’t sure which tool is right for your organization, check out this list brought to you by G2!
2. Caller ID spoofing
Scammers who are performing a caller ID spoofing attack trick your caller ID by making the call appear to be coming from somewhere it isn’t. You’ve probably encountered telemarketers using phone numbers with area codes you recognize. This method is similar to that but much more sinister.
These hackers prey on the fact that you’re more likely to answer a phone call if the caller ID shows the area code you live in or one nearby. In some cases, a hacker using this method may even spoof the first few digits of your phone number, including the area code, to make it seem like the call is coming from your neighborhood.
3. GPS spoofing
When you trick your device’s GPS into thinking you’re in one location, but you’re really in another, that is GPS spoofing. This method became popular because of Pokémon Go.
Thanks to GPS spoofing, users of this popular mobile game could cheat and catch different Pokémon, take over a fighter gym and win in-game currency, and even say they were in a completely different country without even leaving their house.
While it’s easy to roll your eyes at this and think it’s just a childish mobile game, it wouldn’t be impossible for a hacker to spoof the GPS in our cars and send us to a completely wrong destination. The implications for this method of spoofing go far beyond video games.
4. Website spoofing
Website spoofing, which can also be called URL spoofing, is designed to make a malicious website look like a legitimate one. Oftentimes, scammers spoof their scam website into looking like a website you use regularly, like Facebook or Amazon.
The spoofed website will have familiar login page, the right branding, and even a spoofed domain name that looks to be correct at first glance. Hackers will use these websites to steal your username and password, or even drop malware onto your computer. Once they have that information they can change the passwords over and lock you out of your own account. From there, they can use your Facebook friends list to scam your friends and family or even order fraudulent purchases from online retailers.
Oftentimes, website spoofing is used alongside email spoofing. The scammer will send you an email designed to encourage you to update your password or click a tainted link that directs you right to the fraudulent website.
5. IP spoofing
IP spoofing is when an attacker hides or disguises the location from which they’re sending or requesting data from. In regards to cyber security and potential threats to your data, IP address spoofing is used in DDoS attacks to prevent malicious traffic from being filtered out that could hide the attacker’s true location.
Related: To ensure you don’t fall victim to a DDoS attack through IP spoofing, make sure to use DDoS protection software that will filter and monitor incoming web traffic. Check out this list of options!
6. Text message spoofing
Text message spoofing, or SMS spoofing, is when a hacker sends a text message with someone else's phone number or sender ID.
For example, if you have an iPhone and have iMessages synced to your MacBook or iPad, you’ve spoofed your phone number to send a text, since the text didn’t come from your phone, but instead a different device.
While some companies may spoof their numbers for marketing or convenience by replacing a long number with one that’s short and easy to remember, hackers do the same thing: hiding their true identity behind a number as they pose as a legitimate company or organization.
These text messages typically include links to malicious websites or malware downloads.
How to protect against spoofing attacks
Now that you know the types of spoofing attacks that you should be aware of, it’s important that you also understand how you can protect yourself.
- Keep an eye out for incorrect spelling and poor grammar in emails
- Pay close attention to sender addresses of emails
- Never click on an unfamiliar link or download an attachment
- Turn on your spam filter to stop the majority of spoofing emails
- Use multi-factor authentication when logging in to your accounts
- Consistently update your network and utilize patch management
- Ensure your firewalls are setup
- Only visit sites with a proper SSL certificate
- Know the steps to take if you fall victim and need to recover from a cyber attack
- Never give out your personal information online
Don’t be fooled
When you know the warning signs of a spoofing attack, you can spot a hacker wearing a mask a mile away. Or at least, before any of your personal data gets stolen. While playing pretend is fun for kids, and those going trick or treating, there are spoofing professionals who do it on the daily.