Disguising malicious URL links as genuine is an old trade secret of the hackers. Though, the disguising tricks have incredibly evolved since they began. A while ago, fake links were masked by play of words that appeared genuine to unwary users and were successful in redirecting them to the sites controlled by the hackers. But with time, the awareness against phishing significantly grew which made it hard for hackers to net victims like a piece of cake--which was the case earlier.
Cybercriminals dodged the hurdle of user awareness with sophisticated obfuscation tricks. The much evolved provided the right disguise against the increasing consciousness of phishing emails. Since URL-shortener services were put in places, scammers took advantage of this service to conceal counterfeit websites.
We have narrowed down to two essential obfuscation techniques that crooks use to camouflage fake, malicious links among the genuine.
Several URL shortening services in the market, be it: bit.ly, x.co, goo.gl, tiny.cc and much more grew in a short span of time because including regular, long URLs in a Social Media platform like Twitter was a problem. This technique soon became popular among crooks and scammers, who took the advantage of these services to conceal their malicious links and pass it on like genuine links to various users. Couple this obfuscation trick with a neatly worded email that will convince any user of its “genuineness” in no time.
You may have come across links that appear exactly like a genuine link but yet they’re from a hacker out to phish your credentials. Let’s take a look at a phishing email here.
Subject: PayPaI Cash Give-Away
From: Friend <CashGiveAway at PaypaI dot com>
Reply-To: cheapercommunications at yahoo dot com PayPaI
Congradulations You were chosen from over 30,000 contestants for our
$500.00 cash give-away from PayPaI. If you are already a member simply click
the link below to Accept the Cash Give-Away. Even if you are not a PayPaI member
you can sign-up for Free, and still accept the $500.00 Cash Give-Away today!
Note: Enter Your Info Below To Accept.
To Process: Click link below or copy and paste into browser window.
What’s the problem you might ask: notice how, in the email font shown, "paypal" appears to end with a lowercase "l", but it’s actually an uppercase "I". This is possibly the most dangerous trick of all because the naked eye simply can’t identify the difference.