Trend Micro researchers have published details about a sophisticated phishing campaign they’ve named “Heatstroke.” The attackers behind Heatstroke go after victims’ private email addresses using multiple website redirections in order to bypass email filters and check that the victim is a genuine person.
The researchers analyzed two similar phishing kits that went after Amazon and PayPal users, and they found evidence suggesting that the same attackers plan to adapt the kits to target eBay, Google, Apple, Firefox, and other services.
Heatstroke’s infection chain begins with an attacker sending an email to a victim, asking them to verify their PayPal or Amazon account. If the victim clicks the link in the email, they’ll be taken to a benign first-stage website, which is able to pass through email security filters undetected. This website redirects the victim to a second-stage site, which checks that the victim is a real person, and not a security scanner or associated with law enforcement.
Next, the victim will be taken to the actual phishing site, where they’ll be asked to enter their email credentials, credit card details, and other sensitive information. This data is steganographically hidden in an image file and sent to the attacker’s email address. Once the information is sent, the victim loses access to the phishing page.
Heatstroke is The researchers also note that Heatstroke appears to be operating on a phishing-as-a-service model, and they expect it to see widespread use. They also believe it will continue to adopt more sophisticated techniques. Erich Kron, Security Awareness Advocate at KnowBe4, said the campaign demonstrates how advanced modern phishing attacks can be.
“Deploying technology like steganography (hiding data, like passwords, inside digital image files) to avoid detection are things we associate with James Bond-like sophistication, but this type of technology is actively being used in the real world today,” said Kron. “The financial gain the attackers are seeing justifies this level of sophistication.”
New-school security awareness training can enable your employees to keep pace with increasingly advanced social engineering attacks.