Study of More Than 3,200 Unique Phishing Kits Shows Fraudsters’ Inner Workings

November 6, 2017 @ 2:45 PM
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2 min read

Duo Security recently discovered more than 3,200 unique phishing kits that offered insights into how cybecriminals are using them to steal from each other.

The report, titled “Phish in a Barrel,” is based on a search across more than 66,000 URLs that had been compromised via phishing kits. Developed by fraudsters and often made available for sale to other cybercriminals, these kits typically include PHP scripts that can be used to steal usernames and passwords, along with a clone of the intended victim’s login page.

Exposing the Phishing Economy

The report detailed a common technique to evade security services in which malicious developers embed an htaccess directory configuration file within the phishing kit. This is essentially a list of URLs belonging to police or vendors from which the attackers want to hide the phishing folder. There was also evidence that more cybercriminals are using the same kits over and over again.

Researchers also found that fraudsters are not averse to stealing information from each other. The report revealed more than 200 instances of a backdoor mechanism that could enable developers to access the system of a victim who had been compromised by another attacker. This branch of the “phishing economy” is more concerned with selling attack mechanisms than creating them, according to Tom’s Hardware.

Phishing Kits Fly Under the Radar

Although phishing kits are used to break into a variety of applications, BetaNews noted that 16 percent of the attacks analyzed in the report were launched across HTTPS sites, despite the increased security such URLs are supposed to offer. Less surprising is the volume of cybercriminal schemes aimed at sites running WordPress, which recently made headlines for exploits involving old plug-ins and other issues.

If nothing else, the laziness of some fraudsters may make them easier to find. As Help Net Security reported, the use of the “Form” header in many phishing kits indicates how often they are developed by one cybercriminal but used in a variety of instances.

As fraudsters get more businesslike in their approach to such schemes, however, they leave behind fewer tracks for researchers to trace.

Shane Schick
Writer & Editor
Shane Schick is a contributor for SecurityIntelligence.