Feeds

Typo-squatting domains can harvest corporate emails

Executive butterfingers get slurped by honeypots

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

Typo-squatting domains might easily be used to intercept misdirected corporate emails, according to new research.

Domain typo‐squatting has long been used as a means to expose butter-fingered users who accidentally misspell a legitimate domain to malware. So-called doppelganger domains take advantage of an omission instead of a misspelling, for example missing the dot between host/subdomain and domain.

Security researchers at Godai Group profiled companies in the Fortune 500 for susceptibility to attacks based on this ruse, and found that 151 (30 per cent) were vulnerable.

Doppelganger domains open up the possibility of two types of attack. Attackers could passively set up email honey pots on such domains and wait for mistyped emails to arrive. In this scenario, attackers would configure their email server to vacuum up all email addressed to that domain, regardless of the user it was sent towards. Such catch-all email addresses would pick up email from both internal and external users.

The second type of attack would rely on actively trying to trick a targeted individual or group of individuals into sending email to doppelganger domains. Attackers would typically run the scam by posing as workers in the same company or their business associates. Purchasing doppelganger domains for both a targeted conglomerate and its business partners or bank creates a possible means to run man-in-the-middle (or Man‐in‐the‐MailBox) attacks, the researchers warn.

As an experiment, Godai Group registered doppelganger domains for Fortune 500 firms before passively collecting emails sent to mistyped domains. During a six‐month period, they collected more than 120,000 individual emails (or 20 gigabytes of data). All sorts of sensitive information appeared in this batch including trade secrets, business invoices, personal information of employees, network diagrams, usernames and passwords, etc. All the original data that was collected during the research period has been deleted.

"Essentially, a simple mistype of the destination domain could send anything that is sent over email to an unintended destination," the GodaiGroup researchers explain.

Although this was outside the scope of the study, the team also noticed network service requests being sent to doppelganger domains. This means that by setting up a fake SSH server, for example, it would be possible to harvest remote access usernames and passwords.

After reviewing the WHOIS information from all Fortune 500 companies, Godai Group noticed of the many hi-tech firms had doppelganger domains registered to locations in China. Many of these domains are already associated with malware and phishing, it warns.

Godai Group suggests a series of steps firms can take to address the security risk posed by doppelganger domains. Corporates can purchase such domains or, if they have already been registered, file a domain registration dispute. Alternatively internal users can be prevented from sending mistyped emails to doppelganger domains by either configuring internal DNS not to resolve doppelganger domains or configuring email servers not to send messages to such domains.

More details of the group's research on doppelganger domains – as well as details of its suggested mitigation tactics – can be found here (7-page/566KB PDF). ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Webcam hacker pervs in MASS HOME INVASION
You thought you were all alone? Nope – change your password, says ICO
You really need to do some tech support for Aunty Agnes
Free anti-virus software, expires, stops updating and p0wns the world
Meet OneRNG: a fully-open entropy generator for a paranoid age
Kiwis to seek random investors for crowd-funded randomiser
USB coding anarchy: Consider all sticks licked
Thumb drive design ruled by almighty buck
Attack reveals 81 percent of Tor users but admins call for calm
Cisco Netflow a handy tool for cheapskate attackers
Privacy bods offer GOV SPY VICTIMS a FREE SPYWARE SNIFFER
Looks for gov malware that evades most antivirus
Patch NOW! Microsoft slings emergency bug fix at Windows admins
Vulnerability promotes lusers to domain overlords ... oops
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.