Microsoft ranked most imitated brand for phishing attempts in second quarter of 2021

Check Point Research (CPR), the Threat Intelligence arm of Check Point Software Technologies, a global provider of cybersecurity solutions, has published its new Brand Phishing Report for the second quarter of 2021. The report highlights the brands which were most frequently imitated by criminals in their attempts to steal individuals’ personal information or payment credentials during April, May and June.

In a quarter that saw Microsoft warn of a new Russian Nobelium phishing campaign, the technology giant was again the brand most frequently targeted by cybercriminals, as it was in both first quarter of 2021 and fourth quarter of 2020. Forty-five percent of all brand phishing attempts were related to Microsoft in the second quarter (up six points from first quarter). Shipping company, DHL, maintained its position as the second most impersonated brand, with 26% of all phishing attempts related to it, as criminals continue to take advantage of the growing reliance on online shopping.

CPR’s latest report also reveals that technology is still the most likely industry to be targeted by brand phishing, followed by shipping and retail. In the first quarter of 2021, retail was interestingly overtaken in the list by banking, but it has now reclaimed its position in the top three possibly owing to the likes of the Amazon Prime Day sales.

“Cybercriminals are continually increasing their attempts to steal peoples’ personal data by impersonating leading brands. In fact, in the run up to Amazon Prime Day in the second quarter, more than 2,300 new domains were registered about Amazon,” said Omer Dembinsky, Data Research Group Manager at Check Point Software. “Unfortunately, it’s the human element that often fails to pick up on misspelled domains or suspicious texts and emails, and as such, cybercriminals continue to impersonate trusted brands to dupe people into giving up their personal information. In the second quarter, we also witnessed a global surge in ransomware attacks which are often spread initially through phishing emails containing malicious attachments. As always, we encourage users to be cautious when divulging their data, and to think twice before opening email attachments or links, especially emails that claim to be from companies such as Amazon, Microsoft or DHL as they are the most likely to be imitated.”

In a brand phishing attack, criminals try to impersonate the official website of a well-known brand by using a similar domain name or URL and web-page design to the genuine site. The link to the fake website can be sent to targeted individuals by email or text message, a user can be redirected during web browsing, or it may be triggered from a fraudulent mobile application. The fake website often contains a form intended to steal users’ credentials, payment details or other personal information.

Top phishing brands in the second quarter of 2021

Below are the top brands ranked by their overall appearance in brand phishing attempts:

  1. Microsoft (related to 45% of all brand phishing attempts globally)
  2. DHL (26%)
  3. Amazon (11%)
  4. Bestbuy (4%)
  5. Google (3%)
  6. LinkedIn (3%)
  7. Dropbox (1%)
  8. Chase (1%)
  9. Apple (1%)
  10. Paypal (0.5%)

Microsoft Phishing Email – Credentials Theft Example

During the second quarter of 2021, we have witnessed a malicious phishing mail which was trying to steal credentials of a Microsoft account.  The email which was sent from the spoofed email address Microsoft (no-reply@microsoft[.]com), contained the subject “Your Subscription Has Been Expired”. The attacker was trying to lure the victim to click on a malicious link (http://adminsys[.]serveftp[.]com/nensa/fabio/ex/478632215/zer7855/nuns566623) which redirects the user to a fraudulent Microsoft login page (see Figure 2). In the malicious link, the user needed to key in their Microsoft account details. 

Amazon Phishing Email – Account Theft Example

In this phishing email, we see an attempt to steal a user’s Amazon account information. The email which was sent from the email address Amazon Service (Service@srv[.]androidscrib[.]com), contained the subject “Your amazon account has been locked”.

The attacker was trying to lure the victim to click on a malicious link, which redirects the user to a fraudulent malicious page that looks like the real Amazon login website. In the malicious link (https://habitosdamente[.]com[.]br/wp-admin/includes/logs/update-your-account-information/security-measure/?iyh_re), the user needed to key in their username and their password.

Check Point’s Brand Phishing Report is powered by Check Point’s ThreatCloud intelligence, the largest collaborative network to fight cybercrime, which delivers threat data, and attack trends from a global network of threat sensors. The ThreatCloud database inspects over 3 billion websites and 600 million files daily and identifies more than 250 million malware activities every day.

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