Threat Actors Employ Image-Based Phishing to Deceive Targets

Threat Actors Employ Image-Based Phishing to Deceive Targets

As cyber threats continually evolve, attackers are embracing novel tactics to bypass conventional security measures. The latest trend gaining momentum is the utilization of images in phishing campaigns, designed to outwit text-based security filters. Researchers at INKY have uncovered a concerning shift towards image-centric phishing, highlighting the need for heightened awareness and proactive measures to counter this emerging threat.

Evading Text-Based Filters with Image-Centric Phishing

Traditional Secure Email Gateways (SEGs) and security systems primarily rely on textual cues to detect phishing attempts. In response, attackers are adapting by crafting emails that forego textual content entirely. Instead, they embed the necessary text within an image file attached to the phishing email. Astonishingly, these emails appear devoid of any text when viewed, exploiting the automatic image display feature in most email clients. As a result, recipients are unsuspectingly viewing a screenshot of the text, ignorant of the manipulation at play. Without any overt links or attachments, these emails create a false sense of security, rendering victims susceptible to their schemes.

QR Codes: A Gateway to Deceit

INKY's research has illuminated another layer of this image-centric deception – the use of QR codes. In a phishing campaign, QR codes have replaced traditional text-based links. These QR codes, when scanned, lead recipients to malicious sites designed to steal their credentials. The calculated inclusion of the recipient's email address as a URL parameter within these malicious links adds a veneer of familiarity, lulling victims into a false sense of security. The manipulation of recipients' trust amplifies the effectiveness of these attacks.

Navigating the Waters of Image-Centric Phishing

To safeguard against this evolving threat landscape, INKY offers invaluable recommendations:

  1. Verify via Alternate Communication: Whenever recipients are prompted to undertake a new task, it's prudent to verify the request through a different communication channel. This approach helps counteract the visual deception employed by image-centric phishing.

  2. Scrutinize Sender Details: Thoroughly inspect the sender's email address, especially in cases where emails claim affiliation with reputable entities like Microsoft or the recipient's employer. Discrepancies in the sender's domain compared to these claims are red flags to be heeded.

  3. Exercise QR Code Caution: Refrain from scanning QR codes from unknown sources. These codes may lead to websites hosting malicious code, which can exploit vulnerabilities or harvest sensitive data.

  4. Guard Financial and Personal Information: Exercise caution when entering personal or financial information on websites accessed through QR codes. As this mode of entry gains traction, maintaining prudence is pivotal.

In the ever-evolving landscape of cyber threats, staying ahead requires a proactive and informed approach. Embracing new-school security awareness training equips employees with the tools needed to detect and thwart evolving social engineering tactics. As image-centric phishing gains traction, a blend of vigilance, critical thinking, and continuous education becomes the foundation of a robust defense strategy. By understanding the dynamics of these attacks and adopting preventive measures, individuals and organizations can navigate the visual deception and protect their digital landscapes.

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