Phishers Are Casting Nets for Your Domain Names & DNS

Dave Piscitello, Internet Security Skeptic | 7/26/2011 | 19 comments

Dave Piscitello
We all know how traditional phishing works, where email is sent to users in an attempt to steal login or credit card information. But there is another, less known attack that is becoming more common: striking at the domain name level.

A phisher uses a routine correspondence from domain name registrars in an attempt to gain control over legitimately registered domain names. Phishers (criminals, in general) see a great benefit from using a domain name that is held by a registrant in good standing because of the uncertainty they cause when claims of misuse are registered. Any uncertainty on the part of interveners or registrars may delay efforts to suspend any illegal activities conducted in association with that domain name. A recent example against GoDaddy.com is described here.

A chronology of this phishing attack scenario follows:

  1. The phisher hosts a fraudulent copy of the registrar’s login portal. The login form on the fraudulent page hosts a script that accepts the visitor’s username and password and delivers this to the phisher.

  2. The phisher spams a copy of a routine correspondence that registrars send to customers. Registrars contact customers by email to notify them to renew or update contact information domains, or to inform them when changes have been made to a domain registration or the name server configuration for their domain. These correspondences are familiar to customers, and more importantly, they ask the customer to log into his account. They are perfect bait for a phish.

  3. The registrars’ customer takes the bait, visits the fraudulent login page, and unwittingly discloses his registration account credentials to the phisher.

Only the initial purpose of registrar phishing attacks is to gain control over domain names. A common secondary objective is to exploit the DNS to facilitate other criminal acts. A phisher will first change the name servers for a domain managed through the account to point to a name server also under the phisher’s control. The name servers in a domain name registration record identify the name servers to which top-level domains like .com refer DNS queries for resolution of names delegated from a registered domain name.

For example, the .com name servers refer DNS queries for my domain, securityskeptic.com, to NS25.DOMAINCONTROL.COM or NS26.DOMAINCONTROL.COM. These two name servers host the DNS data for my domain -- e.g., both will return the IP address 97.74.144.109 for my Website, www.securityskeptic.com. If a phisher were to compromise my registration account, he would change the name server information to point to a name server he’s owned, and .com’s name servers would be updated to reflect this change in configuration. The attacker can now control the responses for any DNS query about my domain because he controls the name server and the DNS data it publishes.

This is a very powerful attack platform. Here’s a short list of attacks that he can facilitate, for himself or others who “contract his services” (A fuller list is identified in the ICANN SSAC report on registrar phishing):

  • Modify IP address records to point to spoofed Web or other servers under the attacker’s control. The attacker can then host whatever content he chooses at the phony site; for example, the attacker might choose to deface the Website and embarrass the registrant.

  • Modify IP address records to point to spoofed login pages for intranet, wiki, or customer Web portals. Like other forms of phishing, the attacker seeks to dupe unsuspecting employees into disclosing usernames and passwords so he can access and steal sensitive information.

  • Modify mail exchange (MX) resource records in the domain zone data he controls to point to addresses of mail servers under his control and send spam from mail servers he controls. Altering MX records will in many cases disrupt mail delivery to points of contact for the domain name registration and will keep the organization in the dark regarding the compromise.

  • Set time to live values (TTLs) and alter DNS records of the domain zone data on the name servers he operates at those addresses to support fast flux or double flux attacks.

Given the advantages we’ve considered, it’s pretty obvious why phishers find registrar phishing “good for business.” It’s worth your while to be as vigilant in protecting your organization from such attacks. In my next blog, I’ll discuss measures to detect and respond to registration account compromise.

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eethtworkz   Phishers Are Casting Nets for Your Domain Names & DNS   8/1/2011 12:36:51 PM
Re: Careful with Google Apps
Securitysceptic,

Well Said!!!

Ashish.
securityskeptic   Phishers Are Casting Nets for Your Domain Names & DNS   8/1/2011 12:10:10 PM
Re: Careful with Google Apps
Ashish says "Phishing controls are available everywhere.We need to just use them!!"


The most important control is the human at the keyboard. Phishing is overwhelmingly about social engineering and underwhelmingly about clever programming and technology.
User Ranking: Blogger
securityskeptic   Phishers Are Casting Nets for Your Domain Names & DNS   8/1/2011 12:07:56 PM
securityskeptic
Re: Alternate DNS Hosting
Cvargas asked "How do you split your DNS hosting from the registrar?"

A discussion of how to add diversity to your DNS hosting might be a good "part III" but the short answer is that when you purchase a domain registration, your registrar of choice *typically* gives you the opportunity to identify the IP address of your primary and secondary name server. If you don't give one, the registrar typically hosts your DNS on his own name servers. You can change this at any time by logging into your domain registration account to "manage your DNS" through some user interface the registrar provides.

Before you change the name server IP address, you must either arrange to run a DNS server on a public IP address yourself, or make arrangements with some other party than the registrar, such as your ISP, a web hosting company, or a DNS service provider.
User Ranking: Blogger
eethtworkz   Phishers Are Casting Nets for Your Domain Names & DNS   7/31/2011 8:01:10 AM
Re: Careful with Google Apps
Securitysceptic,

I agree entirely....

Phishing is a menace hardly anybody wants to talk about or appreciate in great details...

We need to be very careful which link we click on when.

Phishing controls are available everywhere.We need to just use them!!

Regards

Ashish.
Skr2011   Phishers Are Casting Nets for Your Domain Names & DNS   7/29/2011 2:24:08 AM
Re: Careful with Google Apps
I just checked out that website. AWESOME!
catalyst   Phishers Are Casting Nets for Your Domain Names & DNS   7/28/2011 10:26:21 PM
Re: Alternate DNS Hosting
@cvargas:

One thing that I like to do is also split my DNS hosting away from the registrar and even the hosting company for a site.

How do you split your DNS hosting from the registrar? I am very interested in finding out. This seems to add an additional layer of security.
catalyst   Phishers Are Casting Nets for Your Domain Names & DNS   7/28/2011 10:24:04 PM
Re: Careful with Google Apps
@securityskeptic:

Don't click on links in any mail, even from your most trusted friends and family. Type URLs into your browser.

Absolutely spot on. At times I can be lazy and click away at links embedded in an email. To be vigilant I'll need perk up my fingers and start typing URLs directly into the browser. I'm especially wary of emails from financial institutions. I guess I'll need to put emails from registrars at the top of the list.
securityskeptic   Phishers Are Casting Nets for Your Domain Names & DNS   7/28/2011 11:00:29 AM
Re: Careful with Google Apps
Good to be careful, even suspicious. Teach your family and friends. A really helpful source for children and non-technical people is the NCSA''s Stay Safe Onlne program at www.staysafeonline.org/
User Ranking: Blogger
Skr2011   Phishers Are Casting Nets for Your Domain Names & DNS   7/28/2011 1:49:16 AM
Re: Careful with Google Apps
@ Securityskeptic You are so right. I used to be so trusting online.  Now everything is suspect.
securityskeptic   Phishers Are Casting Nets for Your Domain Names & DNS   7/27/2011 9:37:06 AM
Re: Careful with Google Apps
Skr2011,

Unfortunately, until we learn to be more vigilant, these criminals are living large. Don't click on links in any mail, even from your most trusted friends and family. Type URLs into your browser. Phishers depend on people finding this too inconvenient and they depend on people realizing later that it's much more inconvenient and costly to recover a stolen identity.

We are very bad at considering consequences. People who ask "what if..." while they are online are less likely to fall victim to phishing.
User Ranking: Blogger
Page 1 / 2   >   >>


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