What Is Domain Spoofing?

What Is Domain Spoofing? header image

Obfuscation and misdirection are powerful tools for hackers. While brute-force attacks can overwhelm systems and shutdown operations, they’re not exactly subtle or sneaky, making it easier for security teams to respond.
If cybercriminals can trick users into doing their work for them, however, they’re better positioned to access critical systems without being detected. This is the goal of domain spoofing, which focuses on deception rather than destruction to achieve its aims.

What Is Domain Spoofing?

In a domain spoofing attack, malicious actors create fake domains and websites that look similar to their legitimate counterparts. Then they try to convince users to visit this site and input sensitive data, such as account names and passwords, which hackers use to compromise legitimate sites. 

Consider a company that sells big blue hats and owns the domain www.bigbluehats.com. Attackers may try to spoof this domain by creating a site at www.bigblueshats.com that looks like the original but is just a front for data collection. Links to the spoofed site are often sent via phishing emails — if users don’t notice the extra “s” in the domain name, they may be tricked into providing their personal information. 

What Is Email Spoofing?

Email spoofing uses the same basic framework as domain spoofing. Instead of building an entire fake site, however, attackers create fake email accounts that appear to come from legitimate senders. 

In the example above, a customer who does business with Big Blue Hats might receive emails from [email protected]. Attackers may spoof this email with something similar, such as [email protected]. The addresses look similar enough that users may not see the difference, and if they reply to spoofed emails with account information, they may find their data compromised.

Are There Other Types of Domain Spoofing?

Other types of spoofing include IP spoofing and text spoofing.

In IP spoofing, attackers alter their IP address to obfuscate their identity or impersonate other users. This spoofing approach is often used in distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks — malicious actors use spoofed IP addresses to overwhelm target sites with access requests, in turn causing these sites to fail.

Text spoofing sees attackers sending text messages that appear to be from legitimate institutions such as banks or credit card companies. These texts ask users to take action, such as clicking on links or downloading attachments, which in turn open the door to data theft. 

How to Detect and Prevent Domain Spoofing

Unlike many other attack types, domain spoofing doesn’t target legitimate websites but instead focuses on convincing users to visit fake sites and share their information. This means that in many cases, legitimate site owners may not be aware of spoofing efforts until it’s too late.

When it comes to domain spoofing protection, several options are available. First is the use of SSL certificates, which both authenticate a website’s identity and enable the use of encrypted connections. 

Next is education. If customers and staff are trained to spot the common indicators of spoofed sites and emails, they’re better prepared to avoid potential problems. When it comes to websites, this starts with a thorough examination of the URL. Are all words spelled correctly? Does it have the correct top-level domain (TLD)? If users are unsure, it’s worth typing the correct domain into the address bar manually to ensure they reach the legitimate site.

To prevent email spoofing, users need to recognize popular tactics designed to incite action. These include warnings of account closure or fraudulent activity and are often coupled with demands for users to URGENTLY take action by clicking through to websites. Along with education, businesses can also benefit from robust email spam filters to limit the risk of phishing. 

Solving for the Spoof

While it’s impossible to entirely eliminate the chance of domain, email, IP, and text spoofing, companies can reduce their risk with SSL certificates, email spam filters, and ongoing education.