BBC Email Scam Spoofs Broadcaster’s Site to Generate Bitcoin

January 15, 2019 @ 9:55 AM
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2 min read

Researchers identified a new email scam using seemingly legitimate BBC News webpages to reroute user clicks and generate bitcoin.

According to My Online Security, the spoofing attack emerged just after the holidays in the U.K. Malicious actors created what appeared to be legitimate emails containing a “Display Message” button, which in turn directed users to fake BBC webpages. Clicking anywhere on these scam pages rerouted users to an affiliate site that generated bitcoin for scammers based on page views.

It’s worth noting that the “Display Message” button doesn’t appear for Outlook users, and Mac users may find themselves redirected to fake login pages rather than spoofed BBC sites.

Not-So-Flattering Imitations

Spoofing is a common technique used by scammers to assuage user doubts and grab login credentials. Financial institutions are among the most popular targets in this kind of email scam. In some cases, spoofers misspell the names of legitimate websites (typosquatting), and in others they attach words to the original site address to keep the format but change the destination.

The BBC email scam opted for the second method, redirecting users to https://business-news.bbc-1.site/landers/bbc-business-news/#forward. The site looks legitimate at first glance, but upon further inspection, all articles and links relate to bitcoin, making money quickly or “invest now” finance opportunities.

As My Online Security points out, scammers are also sending messages from familiar contacts. In one case, a user received what appeared to be an expected invoice from a roofing company, but was instead the bitcoin redirect link. Further investigation revealed that the fake site was hosted by Cloudflare — once notified, the cloud provider set up an interstitial scam warning page to alert other users.

How to Defend Your Organization From Email Scams

The lucrative nature of click-driven spoofing means enterprises should expect more of the same in the foreseeable future. But it’s not all bad news: By employing physical safeguards such as verifying suspicious emails via a separate channel — phone calls, text messages or in person — organizations can lower their risk.

Security experts also suggest developing cyberattack frameworks that identify common attack vectors and deploy relevant countermeasures. For example, if spoofing emails are on the rise, a layered approach to email security can help weed out potential fakes. In addition, experts recommend regular re-evaluation of basic cybersecurity hygiene such as deleting redundant accounts, backing up critical data and application whitelisting — to reduce the chance of becoming a victim of an email scam.

Douglas Bonderud
Freelance Writer

A freelance writer for three years, Doug Bonderud is a Western Canadian with expertise in the fields of technology and innovation. In addition to working for...
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