Have you ever been spoofed? You probably have, even if you don’t realize it, because the term “spoofing” refers to any effort by a threat actor that involves them pretending to be someone or something else.
So if you’ve ever received an email that claimed to be from your ISP but wasn’t, or visited a website that seemed legitimate but wasn’t, you were spoofed. But it’s a lot more complex than that, and there are different types of spoofing attacks. Here are the four most common ones.
1. Email Spoofing
Let’s say you receive an email claiming to be from your bank, and it says that you need to log in to your online banking account and change your password. The subject line reads “Reset your password immediately,” and the email looks perfectly legitimate and uses the exact same color scheme as your bank, as well as its logo.
Maybe you forget to check the address the message came from, or fear your bank account will be compromised unless you change your password, so you click the link. At this point, it’s probably already too late. The cybercriminal that targeted you now has access to your banking information and can do with it as they please.
That’s pretty much how email spoofing works, but the good news is, there are ways to prevent it.
First, never share your email address on social media. Don’t subscribe to strange newsletters or sign up to suspicious platforms. And avoid filling out registration forms on fishy websites—this is primarily how threat actors harvest emails.
Whenever you receive an email, examine the address it came from, quickly analyze the text for spelling and grammar mistakes, and check if a link is safe before clicking it. This won’t take more than a few moments of your time, but could save you a lot of trouble.
2. Website Spoofing
Website spoofing, or domain spoofing, happens when a threat actor creates a fraudulent website meant to mimic a well-known brand or organization.
For example, let’s say you want to check out the latest sports news on espn(dot)com, but you accidentally type “espm(dot)com” in the address bar. The website might look exactly like ESPN’s, and actually features the latest sports news, complete with photographs and videos from last Sunday’s football game. Maybe something seems off, but you can’t quite put your finger on it. You continue browsing the site.
In the above scenario (a hypothetical example, “espm” is not actually a registered domain, at the time of writing), you would become victim of what is called website spoofing. The cybercriminals behind the website could deploy all sorts of malware to your device, steal your data, and in general jeopardize your privacy and security in numerous ways.
This shows just how important it is to have anti-malware installed on your device. Thanks to a feature called real-time protection, a good antivirus will block a spoofed website from loading and defend you against attacks. Still, whenever a website seems dubious or an offer too good to be true, make sure you double-check you’re at the right place.
3. IP Spoofing
An IP (Internet Protocol) address is a string of numbers that identifies your device on the internet, making it unique among millions of other devices online. The term IP spoofing, meanwhile, refers to a technique through which cybercriminals steal and abuse an IP address.
To understand how IP spoofing works, you need to first know how internet traffic travels from one online space to another. In simple terms, internet traffic travels in so-called packets, or units of data, which contain information about the sender of the traffic.
To carry out an IP spoofing attack, a cybercriminal modifies a packet’s original IP address. In other words, they make it seem like traffic is coming from a legitimate and trusted source when it is not, thus creating an opening to deploy malware, or hack into communications between the target and another subject.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to prevent IP spoofing attacks. Having strong anti-malware protection in place is obviously a must in any case, but you can also use a VPN that encrypts your traffic, and make sure that you only visit secure websites that use HTTPS connection, as opposed to using HTTP.
4. DNS spoofing
When you want to visit MUO, you type “makeuseof.com” in the address bar, as opposed to typing the site’s IP address. Imagine having to remember a bunch of random numbers instead of domain names—doesn’t that sound like a nightmare? The main reason you don’t have to do that is the Domain Name System (DNS). So DNS basically turns domain names into IP addresses.
How does DNS spoofing work then? In a DNS spoofing attack, a threat actor replaces the domain’s real IP address with a fake one. If a cybercriminal were to carry out such an attack against MUO, you would be redirected to a different website after typing “makeuseof.com” into the address bar.
Through this fraudulent website, the threat actor would be able to infect your computer with dangerous malware, steal your information, and launch different cyberattacks.
Naturally, capable antivirus software would in all likelihood prevent an attack like that, but there’s always a possibility of your system being penetrated. This is why you should always take note of any changes in the URL you entered, immediately exit a website if you are being redirected, and generally just trust your instincts: if a website seems fake or spammy, stay away from it.
Spoofing Attacks Are Common: Protect Yourself
You have most likely encountered at least one of these spoofing attacks at one point. And if you haven’t, you probably will. Plus, there are several other less common threats we haven’t covered here, such as GPS spoofing, neighbor spoofing, and URL spoofing.
None of this means you will inevitably become a victim of cybercrime and have your personal information compromised. As long as you follow basic security protocols, avoid unsafe websites, and stay vigilant, you should be able to protect yourself. With that said, you absolutely need to have antivirus protection installed on all of your devices.