FBI Says 450 Spoof Airport Related Domain Names Were Registered Since March
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Cyber Division issued a Private Industry Notification (PIN) warning of a suspicious activity involving airport-related domain name registrations. The FBI bulletin states that unknown cyber actors are “registering numerous” domain names closely named for US airport websites. It is assumed that the domain names such as “www.newark-airport. info” – will be used in future cyber attacks.
As of May, 450 airport domain names have been registered with names intended that strongly resemble actual major US airport names. The FBI bulletin states that this activity poses a risk to not only the airports but to travelers as well as the entire aviation industry.
Spoofed domain names are used to mimic legitimate websites and trick the reader. Spoofed websites are almost always associated with hackers and scammers. The domain names may be different by one letter or have a hyphen in the name. For example, the legitimate Niagara Falls International airport website is https://www.niagarafallsairport.com/ but one of the spoof domain names is “niagara-falls-airport. com”
Hackers often purchase closely named websites to mimic legitimate websites associated with well-known companies, internet services, and government organizations. They can use the websites to carry out a variety of cyberattacks. The website can be branded to look just like the organization it is trying to mimic making it harder for the reader to detect fraud. The spoof websites may contain links to harmful malware, harmful computer code, or information stealing pages.
If someone believes that they’re on a website to access their email or access traveler related information they may enter sensitive information such as email address, passport information, driver’s license number information, or other sensitive data. The hackers collect this data from the website and use it to carry out more fraudulent activity. Stolen personal data can be used to access bank accounts, compromise corporate emails, commit identity theft, and hack into other valuable online accounts. The goal may be to gather information for future cyberattacks, launch spear phishing campaigns, infect devices with malware, steal money from bank accounts, or rack up fraudulent credit card charges.
“As of 5 March 2020, unknown actor(s) registered the domain “www.phl-airport. com” which closely mirrors that of the legitimate Philadelphia International Airport website (https://www.phl.org/). The use of “phl” in the domain directly mirrors the airport’s International Air Transport Association code “PHL” the FBI Pin states. By late March the threat actors had registered other airport-related domain names related to Greensboro airport.
Some of the Spoof Domain Names are:
- Plus 443 more websites
Multiple domain names contained the prefix webmail indicating an intent to scam email passwords and usernames. Two examples of these are “webmail.newark-airport. info” and “webmail.westchester-airport. com”
The full list can be seen in the FBI notification.
Travelers in the aviation industry are rich targets for hackers. There is wide use of information technology and biometrics. Travelers are accustomed to giving up personal information in order to buy tickets and board planes. With willing travelers, hackers can capitalize on their using their spoof websites to carry out attacks en masse on.
“The initial attack vector, typically in the form of a website waterhole attack or a phishing e-mail, can lead to the collection of personally identifiable information (PII) and legitimate credentials, or plant malware on a system. As a result, cyber actors could potentially conduct a ransomware attack, sell customer and employee information on the dark web, exfiltrate sensitive business information, conduct money mule schemes, or alter existing routing numbers and bank accounts in order to divert vendor payments,” states the FBI notification.
The spoof domains closely resemble the names of major airports. They represent a risk to US airports, travelers, the US aviation sector, and aviation related stakeholders. Although no malicious activity associated with these new websites has occurred this could be the beginning of cyber attacks focused on travelers and the aviation sectors. Spoofed domains are used by hackers and state-sponsored advanced persistent threat groups to deploy malware, collect sensitive information, or steal login credentials.
Defend Against Cyberattacks
- Keep all operating systems, software, and firmware updated with the latest security patches
- Use and update anti-malware and anti-virus software
- Disable or remove unneeded software, protocols, macros, and portals