Abnormal Attack Stories: Social Media Attacks

June 24, 2020

Abnormal Security

Abnormal Security

Abnormal Security has observed attackers impersonating of social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to steal the login credentials of employees major enterprise organizations. In the past two months, we have seen a 60% increase for several organizations with key social media presences.

What are the attacks?

These attacks impersonate popular social media platforms to deliver phishing emails to influential users of each platform by impersonating Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, in an attempt to extract login credentials.

Here are examples of the attacks we’ve observed on various platforms.

Instagram

Attackers are impersonating a notification from the company. This notification aims to create a sense of urgency for the recipient by claiming their account contains content that violates Instagram policy and copyright law, and the recipient’s account will be deleted permanently within 48 hours. The email contains a link to an appeals form that recipients are instructed to fill out, ostensibly to prevent this account deletion.

Facebook

Attackers here are also impersonating an automated message from Facebook. This notification again intimidates the recipient by stating they have received a number of complaints and that Facebook has had to unpublish the user’s page. But if this was an error, an appeals form is provided to supposedly correct it.

Twitter

Attackers are sending emails from a lookalike domain they’ve registered (where the “i” in Twitter is replaced with a lower-case “L”). The body of the email contains a similar pattern to the first two emails: the email claims the user’s account has been suspended for violating Twitters rules, though they state the user is being suspended for creating new accounts. A form is also available to appeal the suspension.

In each case, these social media platforms are impersonated and contain urgent language, pressing the user to take action or their accounts will be deleted. The action to be taken is embedded in a link provided to appeal the decision to delete the account by the platform.

What happens if recipients click on the links

The appeal form that each email links to directs recipients to false login pages hosted on lookalike domains for each social media site.

The attackers created this fake Instagram login page where the username at the top and on the confirmation button appears to be different for each email recipient:

The attackers orchestrated their Facebook attack slightly differently: the user must be logged into their Facebook account since the link to the fake login form is located on a Facebook notes page:

This note leads to this fake login page:

And the Twitter login page is hosted on the lookalike domain; at a casual glance, users would be hard-pressed to see that this is not the real login page:

If recipients of these email attacks input their login credentials for the respective social media sites, attackers can utilize that information to take over their accounts.

Why are these attacks effective?

Increased Social Media Activity: Since the beginning of the year, social media impersonation attacks like these have affected a substantial number of Abnormal customers. Roughly 60% of all attacks observed this year occurred in the past two months. Affected industries include media conglomerates, talent agencies, print and digital services, and the hospitality sector. We believe that this uptick since COVID-19 began could be because attackers are taking advantage of their targets being more active on social media. These trends are expected to grow with other major co-occurring events.

Urgency: A key reason these attacks are effective is the language used in the email body: in each case, the email claims the recipient has violated the terms of service for the platform and thus the platform has decided to suspend the recipient’s account. The emails also provide an opportunity for the recipient to reinstate their account if they act within a certain period of time. Because of the urgency this creates, attackers are hoping the recipients will overlook suspicious signals they would normally notice. 

Convincing Email & Landing Page: The emails from each platform are made to appear to be automated, with the corresponding landing pages for each platform being almost identical to the actual landing pages for Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

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