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Spoofing in Cybersecurity: How It Works & How To Prevent It?

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14th Sep, 2023
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Spoofing in Cybersecurity: How It Works & How To Prevent It?

The need for securing data and online assets is increasing with the rapid evolution of digital media changes. Cybersecurity threats are emerging in new forms daily, making it imperative to stay up-to-date with various cybersecurity measures. One such threat to cybersecurity is a spoofing attack.

This blog will cover everything about spoofing in cybersecurity and what can you do to prevent spoofing

Spoofing Definition

Spoofing is a cybersecurity threat where malicious attackers misrepresent themselves as authentic individuals, companies, brands, etc., to gain unauthorised access to computer systems. They then infect the system with bugs and malware to steal sensitive data or cause irreversible damage. 

These scams occur mostly through emails, websites, phone calls, servers and IP addresses. The scammers execute this by making minor changes to the trusted website or email address to make it look authentic to trick users. Fraud calls and fake emails are considered the most common spoofing examples.

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For instance, you receive regular emails from ‘upGrad.com’, but the cybercriminal may slightly change it to ‘Upgrad.com’ to fool you and urge you to share personal information. This information will be shared with the scammer, not the authentic website. Hence, we can witness content spoofing or data spoofing in various ranges, from simple to complex. 

How Does Spoofing Work?

Spoofing is not a new concept. We can trace the origin of spoofing attacks back to the 1800s when spoofing meant deception or trickery. With the evolution of time and technology, the definition of spoofing has changed to take the form of cybercrime.

Spoofing applies various tactics to trick the end users into revealing vital information to the scammers, such as bank details, passwords, OTP, etc. Some common spoofing tactics involve clicking a link, sharing an OTP or downloading any file on the system, which helps cybercriminals gain unauthorised access, steal sensitive data or damage the system.

Spoofing is an act of technical expertise involving a degree of social engineering. Social engineering implies causing effective deception of the target audience to seek their personal data. Spoofing data is the result of effectively playing with the concerns and fears of the victim. The scammers generally target aged people as they are less tech-savvy and unaware of current scams.

Types of Spoofing

To understand ‘what is a spoofing attack?’ an in-depth knowledge of the various types of spoofing is essential. 

The types of spoofing are enumerated as follows:

1. Email Spoofing

Email spoofing is one of the most common forms of spoofing, where cybercriminals use a fake email id to send deceptive messages to the end user. It may be in the form of an attachment, a link, an image, etc., which, when downloaded, spreads the malware or bug in the entire network. They manipulate the user into providing financial information or any other sensitive data by creating a situation where a fear of urgency emerges in the user’s mind.

The email spoofing is so accurate that it becomes challenging for a normal person to identify it as fraud. Only a frequent email user may identify a particular email as deceptive.

2. Caller ID Spoofing

Caller ID spoofing happens when a scammer makes spoofing calls to send deceiving information and intentionally alters the caller ID. Generally, scammers use caller ID proofing to deceive users and conceal their real identity. 

Mostly, scammers use voice-over-Internet Protocol to execute this particular spoofing activity. VoIP allows cybercriminals to create a caller ID that looks real. The scammer constantly attempts to extract personal or financial information from the user to carry out malicious activities.

3. Text Message Spoofing

Text message spoofing is another common tactic scammers use to deceive users. It is also known as SMS spoofing. In this spoofing, cybercriminals send an authentic message and trick the user into sharing sensitive information. These messages generally include links to some websites or downloadable links containing malware.

Scammers generally carry out text message spoofing by incorporating an alphanumeric sender ID which is a common practice in the marketing industry and used by many organisations. Hence, it appears to be real, although it’s not. 

4. Website Spoofing

In website spoofing, scammers create a website that appears authentic and legitimate but is actually fake and malicious. Scammers usually use well-known brand logos, designs, colours and patterns to make it look similar to the original website. So, this website will be a copy of the website you often visit. 

The URL of this fake website will be very similar to that of the legitimate website, consisting of only minor changes that often go unnoticed by users. 

5. IP Address Spoofing

IP spoofing entails creating Internet Protocol (IP) packets that utilise a different source address to impersonate or conceal another mobile device or a computer system. IP packets are regarded as the primary source of communication for the devices and computers connected to a network.

IP spoofing occurs by incorporating distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) that flood the network with immense traffic. However, scammers may use IP address spoofing in combination with website or email spoofing to make the attack look more real.

6. DNS Spoofing

In domain name system (DNS) spoofing, scammers change the records in the DNS server. They use various tactics to direct online traffic to a fake website originally directed to reach a legitimate website. 

DNS spoofing, also known as DNS cache poisoning, allows cybercriminals to change the real IP addresses in the DNS server with the malicious IP addresses. It aims to direct the user to a fake website that looks like the original one.

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7. GPS Spoofing

GPS spoofing happens when a scammer sends a malicious GPS signal to the user or GPS receiver. This GPS receiver then sends the location signal to other connected GPS devices; hence, all devices receive the fake GPS signal. 

This type of spoofing generally affects mobile devices as they heavily depend upon GPS signals. Cybercriminals use GPS to take over the control of vehicles, such as a car, ship, drone, boat, etc., that depends upon a navigation system. This is an advanced-level cyber attack executed by cybercriminals to hijack military navigation systems.

8. ARP Spoofing

Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) spoofing occurs when the scammer adjoins his Media Access Control (MAC) address with the Internet Protocol (IP) address of the victim. After building a successful connection, the scammer can see, steal, update or modify the data meant to reach the victim’s IP address. 

Generally, ARP spoofing is used by scammers for in-session hijacking to steal and modify sensitive data. This is a sophisticated kind of spoofing that usually incorporates denial-of-service attacks.

9. Extension Spoofing

Extension spoofing occurs when the scammers successfully convince the user to install an executable file on their system that is actually malware. In this case, the malicious file name is similar to the original file, which the user may overlook at first glance.

The cybercriminals trick the users into installing executable malware as an attachment, such as doc.exe. The recipient does not suspect the file is harmful and downloads it.

How To Spot a Spoofing Attack

In the case of websites, poor sentences and grammar, forms that ask for personal details, areas that ask you to click on a particular link and share some details, etc., are hints that you are being spoofed. This is a sign of website spoofing.

When considering emails, wrong spellings and poor grammar, unusual language, unfamiliar attachments and links, personal details forms, etc., are signs that you are being spoofed. These launch an email spoofing attack.

For SMS spoofing and caller ID spoofing, you will receive calls from unknown numbers asking to share your personal details by creating a situation of urgency. You may receive text messages urging you to click on a link. These are clues that you are being spoofed.

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Ways to Recognise and Prevent Spoofing Attacks

You may detect a spoofing attack by analysing the obvious signs. Installing spoofing software can also help you detect a spoofing attack.

Mentioned below are the ways to prevent spoofing attacks: 

Do’s:

  • Use a spam filter for your email inbox.
  • Go through the messages minutely and double-check the content.
  • Confirm whether the source of a call or an email you received is legitimate. 
  • Incorporate a two-factor authentication system to increase your system security.
  • Install a firewall and cybersecurity software in your network and computer system.
  • Confirm the source of a suspicious URL before interacting with it.

Don’ts:

  • Do not download suspicious attachments.
  • Don’t click on unfamiliar links.
  • Don’t respond to emails or calls from suspicious senders.
  • Do not share your personal information, such as bank details, passwords, etc.

Spoofing Prevention: Tips and Guidelines

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Follow the below-mentioned guidelines to understand ‘how to prevent spoofing’ and keep your system safe:

  • Employ packet filtering to restrict packets with unauthorised and incorrect source addresses. 
  • Stop relying upon a trust relationship, which will entail an extra layer of protection. A trust relationship is where only the IP addresses are considered to authenticate devices in a network.
  • Use a spoof detection software or tool to eliminate the spread of spoofing attacks. These tools are designed to detect and block suspicious data.
  • Deploy encrypted protocols restricting scammers from viewing or interacting with your data. HTTPS, SSH, and TLS are good instances of such protocols.
  • Use Virtual Private Network (VPN) in your systems that prevent third parties from viewing or changing your data.
  • Install malware protection tools and a firewall restricting attackers from entering your network.

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Summing Up

Cybersecurity has become paramount in recent years, given the constantly changing nature of the digital world. The rise of cyber risks, such as spoofing attacks, further highlights its importance. It has become essential for everyone to know how to avoid spoofing and other forms of cyber attacks to ensure the safety of their systems and networks.

With spoofing attacks evolving with technological advancements, it is imperative to incorporate preventive measures against spoofing and remain vigilant. 

Profile

Pavan Vadapalli

Blog Author
Director of Engineering @ upGrad. Motivated to leverage technology to solve problems. Seasoned leader for startups and fast moving orgs. Working on solving problems of scale and long term technology strategy.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1What is the difference between sniffing and phishing?

Sniffing collects data packets, examines the network traffic, and detects specific packets. Phishing, however, involves the fraudulent practice of sending fake emails and messages to users to steal sensitive information.

2Why is spoofing used?

Cybercriminals use spoofing to conceal their identity and portray themselves as legitimate companies or websites. In this way, scammers seek personal or financial information from the users to cheat them. This malpractice may be used to steal sensitive data or money or install malware on the victim's computer system.

3Is spoofing a VPN?

A VPN is one of the most prevalent types of IP spoofing. A VPN is technically not a spoofing attack but is based on the same principles as in case of an attack. A VPN has the potential to conceal your original IP address so that no one will know your location, and you can conceal your movement around the internet.

4What is phishing vs. spoofing?

Spoofing is using a fake email ID or phone number to make it look like you are communicating with a reliable source. On the contrary, phishing is committed by creating a false e-mail address or website to deceive users.

5How do hackers use spoofing?

The attackers use spoofing by copying the IP address of a legitimate company or website the users trust. The scammers hide their IP addresses and create fake ones to deceive the users into believing them legitimate and reliable. The scammers modify the packet headers, making it look like a legitimate company or a trusted website.

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