Have you ever come across a website that just didn’t look quite right? Perhaps the company logo looked slightly misshapen, or the font seemed off-brand. Odds are, you landed on a phony version of a legitimate corporation’s website—a tried and true tactic relied on by many cybercriminals.
Fake Login Pages Explained
A fake login page is essentially a knock-off of a real login page used to trick people into entering their login credentials, which hackers can later use to break into online accounts. These websites mirror legitimate pages by using company logos, fonts, formatting, and overall templates. Depending on the attention to detail put in by the hackers behind the imposter website, it can be nearly impossible to distinguish from the real thing. Consequentially, fake login pages can be highly effective in their end goal: credential theft.
How do these pages get in front of a consumer in the first place? Typically, scammers will target unsuspecting recipients with phishing emails spoofing a trusted brand. These emails may state that the user needs to reset their password or entice them with a deal that sounds too good to be true. If the consumer clicks on the link in the email, they will be directed to the fake login page and asked to enter their username and password. Once they submit their information, cybercriminals can use the consumer’s data to conduct credential stuffing attacks and hack their online profiles. This could lead to credit card fraud, data extraction, wire transfers, identity theft, and more.
How Fake Login Pages Are Affecting Canadians
Scammers have recently targeted Canadians with attacks leveraging fake login pages to harvest personal data. For example, criminals preyed on employees who were expecting COVID-19 relief grants in the form of the CERB (Canada Emergency Response Benefit). These funds were sent via an electronic transfer from Interac, a legitimate Canadian interbank network. However, a phishing campaign spoofing Interac’s e-transfer service circulated emails claiming that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) made a CERB deposit of $1,957.50 CAD.
These emails directed recipients to a fake CRA login page, which then redirected to a phony Interac e-transfer site where users were asked to select their personal bank. From there, the recipient was asked to enter their username, card number, password, security questions and answers for their online banking profile, and other personally identifiable information—providing all the information a criminal would need to hack into the user’s bank account.
Why Fake Login Pages are Effective
If you Google “fake login pages,” you will quickly find countless guides on how to create fake websites in seconds. Ethical concerns aside, this demonstrates just how common vector spoofed websites are for cyberattacks. While it has been easier to distinguish between real and fake login pages in the past, criminals are constantly updating their techniques to be more sophisticated, therefore making it more difficult for consumers to recognize their fraudulent schemes.
One reason why fake login pages are so effective is due to inattentional blindness, or failure to notice something that is completely visible because of a lack of attention. One of the most famous studies on inattentional blindness is the “invisible gorilla test.” In this study, participants watched a video of people dressed in black and white shirts passing basketballs. Participants were asked to count the number of times the team in white passed the ball:
Because participants were intently focused on counting the number of times the players in white passed the ball, more than 50% failed to notice the person in the gorilla costume walking through the game. If this is the first time you’ve seen this video, it’s likely that you didn’t notice the gorilla, the curtain changing color from red to gold, or the player in black leaving the game. Similarly, if you come across a well-forged login page and aren’t actively looking for signs of fraud, you could inherently miss a cybercriminal’s “invisible gorilla.” That’s why it’s crucial for even those with phishing training to practice caution when they come across a website asking them to take action or enter personal details.
How to Steer Clear of Fake Login Pages
The most important defense against steering clear of fake login pages is knowing how to recognize them. Follow these tips to help you decipher between a legitimate and a fake website:
1. Don’t fall for phishing
Most fake login pages are circulated vis phishing messages. If you receive a suspicious message that asks for personal details, there are a few ways to determine if it was sent by a phisher aiming to steal your identity. Phishers often send messages with a tone of urgency, and they try to inspire extreme emotions such as excitement or fear. If an unsolicited email urges you to “act fast!” slow down and evaluate the situation.
2. Look for misspellings or grammatical errors
Oftentimes, hackers will use a URL for their spoofed website that is just one character off from the legitimate site, such as using “www.rbcr0yalbank.com” versus “www.rbcroyalbank.com.” Before clicking on any website from an email asking you to act, hover over the link with your cursor. This will allow you to preview the URL and identify any suspicious misspellings or grammatical errors before navigating to a potentially dangerous website.
3. Ensure the website is secured with HTTPS
HTTPS, or Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, is a protocol that encrypts your interaction with a website. Typically, websites that begin with HTTPS and feature a padlock in the top left corner are considered safer. However, cybercriminals have more recently developed malware toolkits that leverage HTTPS to hide malware from detection by various security defenses. If the website is secured with HTTPS, ensure that this isn’t the only way you’re analyzing the page for online safety.
4. Enable multi-factor authentication
Multi-factor authentication requires that users confirm a collection of things to verify their identity—usually something they have, and a factor unique to their physical being—such as a retina or fingerprint scan. This can prevent a cybercriminal from using credential-stuffing tactics (where they will use email and password combinations to hack into online profiles) to access your network or account if your login details were ever exposed during a data breach.
5. Sign up for an identity theft alert service
An identity theft alert service warns you about suspicious activity surrounding your personal information, allowing you to jump to action before irreparable damage is done. McAfee Total Protection not only keeps your devices safe from viruses but gives you the added peace of mind that your identity is secure, as well.
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