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Spoofing definition

Spoofing has two popular meanings in cyber security. It can refer to:

1. The process by which a message (email, SMS, social media) has been delivered from a falsified sender or location in order to build trust, solicit information or have a victim engage in harmful links or attachments.

2. The process by which an IT user may hide parts of their identity to protect their privacy or perform malicious attacks without being caught or to increase their success of initial compromise. 

Types of spoofing

Email spoofing

Email is one of the primary threat vectors for cyber-criminals. A spoofed email is an attempt from a cyber-criminal to trick their victim into thinking the email is coming from a trusted sender. In these emails, the attacker is usually asking for access credentials or money.

IP spoofing

This is the process of creating modified Internet Protocol (IP) packets in order to hide the cyber-criminal’s identity. Often, the goal of IP spoofing is to hide an attacker’s identity in order to launch a DDoS attack. 

Caller ID spoofing

This is a method of spoofing that involves hiding the identity of the caller. Some cyber-criminals will use a local phone number with a relevant area code to make it seem like the call is coming from a trusted source. This will increase the chances of a call being picked up. These calls will usually ask the victim for sensitive information while impersonating a bank, lender, or relevant business. 

GPS spoofing

This is when a GPS system is tricked into broadcasting a fake signal. This can be severely damaging to a shipping or transportation organization which rely on GPS systems to transport goods to specific destinations. By hacking into the GPS system, the cyber-criminal will be able to emit false locations of the transport vehicles, or even alter their routes.

Who is at risk of spoofing?

Everyone should be weary of spoofed messages including:

Businesses: Businesses of all sizes are at risk of receiving spoofed messages and should have a plan to protect their networks, devices, and employees from cyber threats, malware, and other harmful content. Content filtering can also help businesses enforce their policies and regulations regarding internet usage and prevent productivity loss due to non-work-related activities.

Schools and educational institutions: Schools and educational institutions are also at risk of receiving spoofed messages. They can use content filtering to protect their students from inappropriate content and cyberbullying, as well as to prevent access to websites that may distract them from their studies.

Individuals: Individuals who want to protect themselves and their families from spoofing can become more knowledge about what a common spoofed message might look like. The best practice is to always verify the sender’s credentials. If there is any suspicion as to the integrity of a message, never click on a link or download a file.

Challenges organization face protecting against spoofing

Organizations counter spoofing with strong security measures. However, sometimes strong measures might slow down business activity or develop false negatives when alerting to potentially spoofed messages. While cyber-criminals are getting more sophisticated in their attack methods, organizations need to consider implementing security systems that improve the speed and efficacy of their security team, allowing normal business operations to continue at a fast pace and keeping their digital environments safe.

How to protect against spoofing

For organizations, there are several cyber security software solutions that have the capability of filtering messages that represent fraudulent activity. Some of these processes include firewalls or basic content filtering systems. However, traditional solutions will struggle to spot nuanced cyber-attacks that use social engineering tactics, spear phishing, whaling, or AI-powered tactics, which involve a high degree of complexity and are better at masking themselves to bypass these systems.

 AI-powered security solutions are the most efficient way to protect mid to large scale organizations from spoofed messages because of its scalability and efficiency.

Having a human led team alone makes it difficult to process and classify large amounts of data. AI can be used to help organizations identify vulnerabilities, allowing security teams to prioritize and strategically plan out their security efforts. 

For individuals who want to protect themselves from spoofing, they can switch on their spam filter and become more knowledgeable about what common spoofed messages might look like. The best practice is to always verify the sender’s credentials. If there is any suspicion as to the integrity of a message, never click on a link or download a file.

Consequences of spoofing

Spoofing can happen in a variety of mediums, meaning that anywhere you can communicate with someone on the web, spoofing can happen. This includes social media, email, SMS, and more. 

Cyber-criminals have a variety of tactics to spoof a message:

Social engineering: This is a technique used by cyber-criminals in a variety of cyber-attacks. Social engineering involves using manipulation tactics based on contextual knowledge of the victim to solicit sensitive information. 

Ransomware: Some spoofed messages can contain ransomware. Usually, ransomware targets large organizations and is hidden within a message as a link or file for download. Clicking on the link or file will install a ransomware on the victim’s device and has the potential to become detrimental to their system.

Phishing or Smishing: This involves a cyber-criminal sending a fraudulent email or SMS message that contains malicious content. When the malicious content is downloaded or clicked on, the cyber-criminal will compromise the device. In some cases, cyber-criminals will use phishing or smishing tactics to solicit information while posing as a trusted organization like an e-commerce site.