Google and Amazon Overtake Apple as Most Imitated Brands
August 2020 by Check Point
Researchers at Check Point have published their Q2 Brand Phishing Report. The report outlines the latest trends in ‘brand phishing’, a term used to describe when a hacker imitates an official website of a known brand by using a similar domain or URL. Hackers leverage a variety of methods to send links to deceptive websites, redirecting users during their web browsing experiences. Typically, the intention of a hacker is to steal credentials, personal information or payments. The report covers the months of April, May and June 2020.
Google and Amazon lead, Apple falls
Google and Amazon were the most imitated brands in phishing attempts, while Apple (the leading phishing brand in Q1) fell to 7th place from the top spot in Q1. The total number of Brand Phishing detections remains stable compared to Q1 2020. Below are the top 10 brands ranked by their overall appearance in brand phishing events during Q2 2020:
1. Google (13%)
2. Amazon (13%)
3. WhatsApp (9%)
4. Facebook (9%)
5. Microsoft (7%)
6. Outlook (3%)
7. Apple (2%)
8. Netflix (2%)
9. Huawei (2%)
10. PayPal (2%)
Email Phishing Exploits Surge
Email phishing exploits were the second most common type after web-based exploits, compared to Q1 where email was third. The reason for this change may be the easing of global Covid-19 related restrictions, which have seen businesses re-opening and employees returning to work. Making up nearly a quarter (24%) of all phishing attacks, email phishing exploits targeted Microsoft, Outlook and Unicredit, in that order.
Facebook, the Mobile Phishing Trap
Almost 15% of phishing attacks trace to mobile. Facebook, WhatsApp and then PayPal are the most imitated brands on mobile, in that order.
Example: Phony iCloud Login Page Aims to Steal Credentials
During late June, Check Point researchers witnessed a fraudulent website which was trying to imitate the login page of Apple’s cloud services, iCloud. The purpose of this website (example below), is to try and steal iCloud login credentials and is listed under the domain “account-icloud[.]com”. The domain was first active in late June 2020 and registered under the IP - 220.127.116.11, located in Russia.
Example B: Copycat Paypal Page Attempts Credential Theft
During May, Check Point researchers noticed a fraudulent website which was trying to imitate a PayPal login page. The website is listed under the address paypol-login[.]com. The domain is registered first registered on 2018 and was reused once again in late May. The domain is registered under IP in U.S. 18.104.22.168.
Lotem Finkelsteen, Manager of Threat Intelligence at Check Point, said: “Cyber criminals continue to focus on tricking us through the household names we trust - think Google, Amazon and WhatsApp. However, this past quarter, we saw much more email phishing activity than usual. As we are all forced to work from home, the inbox is a prime attack method for hackers. I’d think not twice, but three times before opening up a document in email, especially if it’s allegedly from Google or Amazon. I expect the email phishing attacks to proliferate as we get into the second half of 2020, for all signs are pointing towards what could be an imminent cyber pandemic. To stay safe, I’d use only authentic websites, beware of special offers, and watch for lookalike domains as much as possible.”
How to Stay Safe
1. Use authentic websites. Verify you are using or ordering from an authentic website. One way to do this is NOT to click on promotional links in emails, and instead Google your desired retailer and click the link from the Google results page.
2. Beware of “special” offers. An 80% discount on a new iPhone is usually not a reliable or trustworthy purchase opportunity.
3. Beware of lookalike domains. Watch for spelling errors in emails or websites, and unfamiliar email senders.
Phishing by the Numbers
• It’s estimated that phishing is the starting point of over 90% of all attempted cyber-attacks
• Nearly one-third (32%) of actual data breaches involved phishing activity (Source: Verizon 2019)
• Phishing was present in 78% of cyber-espionage incidents and the installation and use of backdoors to networks (Source: Verizon 2019)