Consent phishing is simply a form of cyberattempt that tricks users into having their consent to enter sensitive information via a Trojan program. In a typical phishing attack, a cyberattacker seeks to acquire confidential information or data by impersonating an entity or trustworthy person. In this attack, hackers gain access to your personal information by tricking you to opening an infectious email message that looks like it’s from your bank or credit card company. Once your computer is infected with the malware, it sends secret data to the attacker, who then uses the information to unauthorized purposes.
One way to protect yourself from the threat of consent phishing is to not open emails that you do not recognize or that appear to be spam. The apps that are disguised as being from “trusted” third parties, such as banks or credit card companies, can be particularly insidious. These so-called “free” apps secretly gather information about you and send it to the attackers. These apps can send out spam messages that are targeted towards your inbox, or automatically install new software on your phone without your knowledge.
In addition to the fake application, fake email messages, and unsolicited pop-ups, some consent phishing attacks include the use of fake websites. These websites can mimic a legitimate financial institution or other online entity, and may even claim that you need to answer a survey. Other forms of malware attach themselves to emails and send electronic messages that appear to be from bank officials. In all cases, these malware transfers ownership of your data to the attackers when you grant access to certain websites.
Other malware requires the victim to input one or more personal details to gain access to information. Common types of this include password stealing, where attackers gain access to your accounts through passwords, or phishing, in which they send spoofed emails that appear to be from financial institutions or other trustworthy locations. In all cases, the victims are required to click on an link in an email or pop-up message, or visit a website before they can gain access to any information. Many online banking systems have implemented multi-factor authentication to combat this form of consent phishing attacks.
Other forms of malware require the user to download a program or file. These types of malware commonly install hidden spyware that captures user names and passwords. The malicious link then sends these details to attackers via email. Other malicious links often install additional programs that monitor Internet traffic. Once a user clicks on an “asterisk” link, the software downloads additional software that modifies Internet browser settings, including changing the Web Search field to search Google and Yahoo. This method bypasses the “Do Not Track” feature of the browser and can cause significant browser crashes.
Other forms of malware, such as rogue smartphone apps, make use of what is called “fake apps,” in which a hacker tricks users into purchasing additional paid apps. These apps aren’t real, but many of them are indistinguishable from legitimate apps, as the smartphone has a default user interface that allows access to apps. Once a user downloads a fake app, it infects their smartphone. If they then go to the Play Store or another app store to purchase a real app, they will see that it is purchased through the hackers’ account. The attacker has gained admin consent for the fraudulent activity, so it is very hard to fight back against these kind of malicious links.
An even more serious form of application-based threat is where a hacker breaks into a system that has installed sensitive information, and remotely accesses the server. In this case, the hacker gains admin consent by attacking a vulnerable application server. They can then remotely access, modify, and distribute the information they’ve hacked. This type of attack is much more common than the previous ones, and requires that the information be sent in a clear fashion over the internet. For example, a bank would not send information over an insecure network to its customers.
Cloud computing makes it easy for attackers to get access to cloud services without user consent. If you use cloud services regularly, or store your information on publicly accessible sites, you should be extra careful. Attackers can easily create fake credentials to get access to your data, and use them to try to trick you into buying or using fake apps. A recent attack demonstrated how easily cloud services can become targets for phishing attacks.
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