There have so far been millions if not billions of phishing websites out there looking exactly like the original ones and many inexperienced users tend to fall for their trap and give away their personal information and financial details which are sent to the hackers’ servers via tracking technology. Antivirus companies have integrated phishing protection against such threats, but since the hosts spreading phishing spit out multiple URLs with an extreme rate, not all the phishing pages are blocked. This is why, we have created this educational material which aims to make you an expert in phishing protection, because more users become victims due to their behavior and we can’t blame security software all the time.
How Do Phishing Web Links Spread
Cyber-criminals have invested all of their imagination and potential into creating phishing web pages that will pass the trick. And they use cunning tactics to spread them as well. The tactics are many and the web pages are almost identical.
Method 1 – Via Referrer Spam
One of the most widespread methods of spreading phishing web pages is naturally via manipulating google to conduct massive spam campaigns via spam bots. Such spam bots are usually either Web Crawlers also known as spiders and Ghost Referrers. Crawlers aim to crawl different web pages and spam only on those that lack certain security features and are more harmless than Ghosts which are a persistent spam and cannot be blocked easily. Here is an example of a spammed URL via referral spam bots that leads to a phishing AliExpress webpage:
Method 2 – Via PUPs (Ad-supported Programs)
Usually, such potentially unwanted programs are created for multiple different benefits of the interests of their makers:
- To generate hoax traffic by displaying ads and causing browser redirects to third-party websites who may have paid for such service.
- To display advertisements of affiliate links that generate revenue by being clicked on.
- To infect your computer with malware by advertising malicious web links.
- To display phishing web pages that aim for your information.
The displaying of such phishing pages may occur via a browser redirect or via a fake page posted on a toolbar as a favorite bookmark. This includes fake phishing pages such as Facebook login pages, PayPal, Apple, LinkedIn and multiple other services.
Such unwanted software can be replicated via multiple different methods, primarily via bundling. Bundling is a service that aims to push third-party programs by embedding their installation along other free software downloaded online. One example can be seen on the image below, advertising an app as a “useful extra”. Such bundled programs can be seen on suspicious software download sites or torrent sites.
And Mac users are also endangered by such unwanted applications or malware coming from malicious apps. Such may display phishing web pages, like the fake iCloud login below:
Method 3 – Via Malware
The most effective and the smartest method of all of the phishing attacks is conducted via multiple types of malware being spread out In the wild. One of those viruses which is extremely dangerous is banking malware or banking Trojans. Such may phish for your financial information after infecting your computer. One of the latest viruses in this segment, known as the BlackMoon banking trojan uses a very cunning technique. The virus has a pre-configured list of hashes of websites that the user may visit. As soon as the victim visits the original website, for example a purchase page from online retailer, the Trojan detects it and then displays an error message:
As soon as the victim clicks on the “OK” button, BlackMoon redirects to an identically looking phishing web page with the financial credentials. Some malware which is better developed may generate such web pages on the spot by copying the “page source” code:
Other malware which may cause the spreading of such phishing web pages are botnet viruses and although not as effective, may be worms which spread automatically from a computer to another computer. Such worms may also display phishing web pages in a similar manner or even install Trojans, like the BlackMoon.
Method 4 – Via E-mails
Probably the most widespread method out there, phishing e-mails often tend to trick many inexperienced victims and also experienced corporate users into entering their credentials for a banking institution or online payment service. You won’t even believe how many have fallen to the trap of socially engineered e-mails purely because the scheme is created in a very clever way.
For example, one scheme may be to spread phishing e-mails to users who use only payment service, like PayPal. Such schemes were reported to be spread since the year 2014 and are evolving. One of those e-mails can have a subject such as:
- Your account has been logged in from another device.
- Verify that you have made the PayPal transfer.
- Suspicious activity on your account.
- Purchasing receipt from Apple Store Australia.
The body of the e-mail appear to be exactly the same as a legitimate e-mail sent by PayPal, for example. And even experienced users would not be able to tell the difference. And since those phishing pages are generally not malicious and associated with malware, they are not blocked by antivirus programs or web browser companies. So you might be visiting such as website, thinking “Oh, well, I have antivirus protection”, but the site may be completely different from the original.
How to Detect Phishing (Fake) Web Links
Usually, the detection of such web links should happen manually. If you have doubts that a web page is phishing or just want to check such page, the first action that should be performed by you, is check the URL for phishing. There are multiple ways to do it, the most simple of which is to compare the original URL with the URL of the phishing page. You should preferably do this on another device that is safe or via another web browser. If the web link you see differs from the original, then you most likely have a phishing page:
Also, another sign of copying a phishing page is that the web pages that are phishing are often not HTTPs (s for secured). This can be detected by the green padlock icon that usually appears In the address bar, like the image above displays.
Another method to check phishing e-mails is via using different online services. One in particular is Scamadviser.com which also has a build in browser extension. On the site you may paste the URL to see if it a malicious URL or if it has been detected for being a phishing or scam web page:
In addition to this, you can also check your web browsers for suspicious browser extensions added to them an check your PC if it has a suspicious ad-supported program embedded within it, by following the steps below:
How to Get Rid of Phishing Websites Permanently
After checking for suspicious browser extensions and you find suspicious such, recommendations are to clean your web browsers cache to completely clean them up from any unwanted software. This is achievable by following the instructions for web browsers in this video:
The instructions are to remove a specific potentially unwanted program, but they will also help you clean your web browsers and get rid of any suspicious software residing on your computer.
In addition to this, to further remove phishing websites from your computer, recommendations are to scan it for any suspicious software and malware that keeps causing them to appear. According to experts this is the best method to detect if any harmful objects causing the URLs to appear on your PC may be residing on your system. The best method to do this is to download and install an advanced anti-malware software, after which boot your PC in safe mode with networking and scan it for malware:
How to Protect Myself in The Future
Protection against phishing attacks is basically protection against suspicious web links, malware and harmful software. This is why it comes down primarily to what combination of protection tactics you apply. This is why, for maximum protection, we strongly suggest you to follow the below-mentioned advises. If implemented in combination, the security of your data and your credentials will significantly improve and may save you a lot of headaches:
Advice 1: Make sure to read our general protection tips and try to make them your habit and educated others to do so as well.
Advice 2: Install an advanced anti-malware program that has an often updated real-time shield definitions and malware and phishing protection.
Spy Hunter scanner will only detect the threat. If you want the threat to be automatically removed, you need to purchase the full version of the anti-malware tool.Find Out More About SpyHunter Anti-Malware Tool / How to Uninstall SpyHunter
Advice 3: Make sure to change all of your passwords from a secure device. If you do not have such, you can boot a live Ubuntu or other OS. The new passwords should be strong and connected one to another, so that you can remember them easily, for example [email protected], [email protected] and so on. You can also use colors and other words to remember them easily.
Advice 4: Backup your files using one of the methods in this article.
Advice 5: : Make sure to use a security-oriented web browser while surfing the world wide web.