Spoofing: A Comprehensive 5 Step Guide


Mimicking a great actor is considered an art. And we love it! But when this mimicking happens on the internet, somebody with wrong intentions trying to be somebody else, beware you might get spoofed. It has become a malicious activity in the era of the internet and is essential to understand in greater detail. So let us answer all your doubts about: what is spoofing in cybersecurity.

  1. What is Spoofing?
  2. How does spoofing work?
  3. Types of spoofing
  4. How to detect that you are spoofed?
  5. How to protect against spoofing?

1. What is Spoofing?

Spoofing in cybersecurity term is when somebody pretends to be something else, so to gain our confidence, get into our systems, steal money, steal data, or layout a malware. A more precise spoofing definition would be: It is the act of impersonating a communication from a hidden source as being from a trusted and known source.

You will be shocked to know that spoofing can be applied to phone calls, emails, and websites and on the IP address as well. There could be deeper motives behind spoofing. There could be a plan to execute massive cyberattacks like man-in-the-middle attack or advanced persistent threat. 

Once a successful attack happens in an organization, entire computer systems might get affected. Such a spoofing attack can cause data breaches, loss of money, and spoil the organization’s reputation. Also, in some spoofing attack examples, the internet traffic is rerouted to other malicious sites, with the prime motive to steal data or distribute malware.

2. How does spoofing work?

Humans have designed numerous ways to communicate with each other. To name a few are: phone calls, emails, text messages, websites, etc. So, spoofing can happen on any of these communication methods or other internet functionalities like IP address, caller ID, GPS, URL, etc. It can be employed to execute phishing attacks as well, where the hidden agenda is to steal data. The following types of spoofing attacks will make it easier to understand the spoofing meaning and how spoofing works.

3. Types of spoofing

Spoofing is an example of deception, and the various types of spoofing are:

1. Email Spoofing: It happens when the attacker tricks the recipient using email. The attacker makes the recipient think that a particular email came from a trusted or known source. These emails might carry adware, ransomware, Trojans, cryptojackers, or malware.

But, generally, a false email address might not fool an average person. There could be multiple deceptive features involved in this spoofing technique:

  • Mimicking a trusted email domain or address by using alternate numbers or letters that appear slightly different from the original one.
  • To attack a firm or a company email may hold familiar branding like colors, logos, font, etc.
  • Spear Phishing attacks that target an individual or a small group in a firm includes personalized language and will address the recipient with his/her name.
  • The emails might contain a lot of typos or bizarre statements.

2. Website Spoofing: This spoofing attack in network security aims at data spoofing. The attacker designs a website that mimics an existing and trusted website by the user. This website will hold a login page to gather your username and password information. It can also possibly drop malware on your computer. A spoofing site will mostly be used in conjunction with an email spoof, containing a link to the spoofed website.

3. Caller ID spoofing: The attacker here, makes you believe that a particular phone call coming to you, is from a source known and trusted by you. The attacker next uses social engineering to often pose as someone from customer support or bank to get your sensitive information like account information, passwords, social security numbers, etc.

The term social engineering means the methods or tricks cybercriminals employ to get your personal information, open a malware-laden attachment, or click a malicious link.

4. Text Message Spoofing: It is sending an SMS by somebody else’s phone number or sender ID. If in case you have sent an SMS using your laptop, you have unknowingly done phone number spoofing. It is because you did not use your phone. The attacker hides their original identity behind an alphanumeric sender ID and poses as a legitimate organization or firm. It can be called mobile spoofing.

5. GPS spoofing: This spoofing cybercrime occurs when the attacker makes you believe that he is a particular location when he is somewhere else. You can understand the severity of this crime by this spoofing example: Suppose the attacker spoofs the GPS in your car and sends you to a wrong destination.

6. Man-in-the-middle attack: Many times, you might have used that free Wi-Fi in a hotel or airport. There might be a scenario where a cybercriminal has created a fraudulent Wi-Fi on the same network or hacked the system. The spoof comes in to picture when the attacker alters the communication between two parties or reroute bank transfers or gather sensitive information like Bank user Id and password.

7. Extension spoofing: Here, the attacker stores a file as an executable file. For an average Windows user, a file will .exe extension will look like a text file.

8. IP spoofing: The IP address spoofing is employed in distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS). It prevents malicious traffic from being removed and hides the attacker’s location as well.

4. How to detect that you are spoofed?

Now that you know what is spoofing and spoofing techniques, you should be able to detect spoofing signs too. The following are some significant signs:

1. Website spoofing

  • Every reputed website holds an SSL certificate. But unfortunately, it has become easier to obtain an SSL certificate these days. Do not believe anything on the internet.
  • Do not trust a website that does not employ file encryption. Legitimate websites always use HTTPS for transferring data back and forth.
  • Always use a password manager. Your password manager will autofill your stored credentials for a legitimate website. In case you hop on a spoofed website, the password manager, will not autofill your credentials, and that stands as a clear indication of a spoofing threat.

2. Email Spoofing: Look for clear signs of legitimacy. Double-check the sender’s email address, embedded links, typos, and attachments. These signs will generally alert you about spoofing and hacking.

3. Call spoofing: Thinking about how to do call spoofing. It is easier to spoof landlines. Let calls from unknown numbers go to voicemail.

5. How to protect against spoofing?

How to prevent spoofing attacks? The following ways will help you protect against spoofing and the spoofing tools employed by attackers:

  1. To protect your inbox from spoofed emails, turn on the spam filter.
  2. If an email comes from an unknown sender, do not click on links or attachments inside the mail. If you are suspicious, try contacting the sender through some other channel.
  3. After reading about spoofing in computer security, you should keep an eye on poor spellings, inconsistent grammar, and bizarre sentences in emails. Watch out for the sender’s email address.
  4. How to stop phone spoofing? Do not take calls at face value. Be very careful while sharing information on calls. Google a number you are doubtful about. These days even a true caller is quite useful.
  5. Buy a sound cybersecurity program. It will alert you about threats timely.

Malicious actors plan sophisticated attacks. Even if you understand spoofing attack meaning, what is meant by spoofing and spoofing attack prevention, it is advised to remain vigilant always!!

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