Phishing is a common social engineering attack that is used by scammers to steal personal information, including authentication credentials and credit card numbers. Being well known for more than 30 years, phishing is still the most common attack performed by cyber-criminals. There have been several attempts at combating phishing attacks, but no attempt has been able to successfully eliminate the problem.
One of the most common attack scenarios involves the attacker sending an email or a text message to the victim. The message, pretending to be from a trustworthy entity, links to a fake website which visually matches a legitimate site. Nowadays, most browsers include limited protection to phishing, relying on a list of known phishing domains. While such protection has value, it’s still easy to bypass.
To help combat phishing attacks, we developed a browser extension that takes a different approach. Instead of trying to determine whether a visited website is a fake website used for phishing, we augment the website with additional visual information, allowing the user to make an informed decision. The user can take into account context that the browser has no way of knowing, such as the origin of the link and the sensitivity of the information about to be entered.
The website identity
One of the most common types of phishing is tricking the user into entering credentials into a fake website. The traditional way of avoiding such phishing is to check the address bar and verify that the address matches the expected, legitimate website. Such a check requires some discipline, and is easy to miss amid a busy day.
The main goal of ZecOps Anti-Phishing Extension is to make it easy to determine the identity of a website, having a visual indication that is difficult to miss.
Take a look at the following example:
In this example, the victim navigated to a fake website pretending to be paypal.com. Without the extension (left part of the image), the only difference compared to the real website is a single character in the address bar (1 instead of l in “paypal”). With the extension, the victim gets critical information just before entering his credentials:
- The website is visited for the first time. For a website such as PayPal, which the victim probably visited multiple times before, this is a red flag.
- The domain name is very similar to another, well known domain name. In this case, the extension is able to recognize that “paypa1.com” is visually similar to “paypal.com”, making the phishing attempt obvious.
- The elephant image is the visual identity of the website that the extension generated for paypa1.com, which is most likely to be different from the visual identity of paypal.com. If the victim signs into paypal.com often, he might notice that the image changed and that something is wrong. Users won’t be able to remember all images for all websites, but that’s another measure of caution that can prevent a successful attack, and is more effective for websites that are visited more often.
Another common phishing technique involves sending a message with a link that looks legit, but leads to a different website that is controlled by the attacker. ZecOps Anti-Phishing Extension detects such links and displays a warning message:
A word about privacy
We care about our users’ privacy, and so the extension doesn’t send any information back to us. We don’t collect the websites you visit, the messages you see, or anything at all. The only data we collect is through our phishing reporting form that you can voluntarily submit.
Installing the extension
You can get the extension in the extension store for your browser:
- Mozilla Firefox
- Microsoft Edge (Chromium-based version)
- Google Chrome and other Chromium-based browsers (such as Opera and Brave)
The source code of the extension can be found on GitHub: