What Is Spoofing and How Does It Work?
Picture this scenario — you’re at home, minding your own business when you receive an email from your bank. The email looks exactly like the emails you usually get from your bank, so you enter your login information directly from the email without thinking twice.
And just like that, you’ve just been spoofed.
The attacker now has access to your bank account and can do whatever they want with your money. And unfortunately, this scenario is not uncommon. In fact, it’s one of the most common types of cyber attacks and occurs every 10 seconds!
In this quick guide, we’ll give you an easy answer to what is spoofing, how it works, and how you can protect yourself from it.
What is a Spoofing Attack?
In the simplest terms, a spoofing attack is when a cybercriminal impersonates someone else that a user trusts in order to steal sensitive information or commit fraud.
While that sounds similar to phishing, spoofing differs in that it specifically targets a particular person or organization. The attacker usually knows something about the user, such as the bank he or she uses or other platforms that he or she may use.
For example, the attacker in the scenario above targeted the victim specifically by spoofing their bank’s email address. They sent an email that looked exactly like the emails that their victims usually receive from their bank. And because they did such a good job of impersonating the bank, the user didn’t think twice about entering their login information.
Spoofing attacks can happen in many different ways, but they all have one common goal — to trick you into giving away sensitive information or taking some sort of action that will allow the attacker to gain access to your system or data.
Types of Spoofing Attacks
Now that we know what spoofing is, let’s take a look at some of the most common types of spoofing attacks and how they work.
It’s important to note that there are many different types of spoofing attacks, and new ones are being created all the time. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it should give you a general idea of what to look out for.
Email spoofing is when an attacker sends you an email that looks like it’s from a trusted source, like your bank or a company you do business with. The email will often ask you to click on a link or download an attachment. If you do, the attacker will gain access to your system or data.
DNS spoofing is when an attacker changes the DNS records for a domain so that visitors are redirected to a different, malicious site. This can be used to steal login credentials or financial information.
IP spoofing is when an attacker changes the source IP address in a packet to make it look like it’s from a trusted source. This can be used to gain access to systems or networks or to launch denial-of-service attacks.
ARP (Address Resolution Protocol) Spoofing
ARP spoofing is when an attacker modifies the ARP table on a victim’s machine so that all traffic meant for the router is sent to the attacker’s machine instead. This allows the attacker to see all of the victim’s traffic, including passwords and other sensitive information.
How to Prevent Spoofing Attacks
Now that you have an idea of what spoofing is and how it works, you’re probably wondering how you can protect yourself from these types of attacks.
Well, that actually depends on the type of spoofing attack. Of the 4 types of spoofing attacks listed above, email spoofing is the only one that can be prevented with anti-spoofing measures.
For DNS and IP spoofing, you’ll need to implement security measures at the network level, like firewalls and intrusion detection/prevention systems. And for ARP spoofing, you’ll need to use ARP poisoning detection tools.
Fortunately, most people will never have to worry about DNS, IP, or ARP spoofing attacks. Unless you’re a network administrator or security professional, you probably don’t have to worry about these types of attacks. But email spoofing is a different story. Email spoofing is the most common type of spoofing attack and it’s also the easiest to prevent.
How to prevent email spoofing attacks?
Perhaps the best way to prevent email spoofing attacks is to be vigilant about the emails you open and the links you click on. If you’re not expecting an email from someone, don’t open it. And if you’re unsure if a link is safe, don’t click on it.
Going back to the scenario we’ve given above, you should be particularly wary of emails that express a sense of urgency or threaten some sort of negative consequence if you don’t take action. These are common tactics used by attackers to trick people into clicking on links or downloading attachments.
In general, it’s always a good idea to be overly cautious when it comes to emails. If something doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t. And if you’re ever in doubt, you can always contact the person or company that supposedly sent the email to confirm that it’s legitimate.
Another way to prevent email spoofing attacks is to use an email security solution that includes anti-spoofing measures. These solutions can detect and block emails that are trying to spoof your domain.
How to avoid spoofing attacks using a VPN
One important thing to note about spoofing attacks is that the perpetrator needs to already have some form of info about their victim in order to spoof their identity. This includes which banks they use, their email addresses, where they live, etc. By hiding this information online, spoofing becomes much harder.
You can do that with a reputable VPN service like ClearVPN. It encrypts your traffic, so no one can see what websites you’re visiting or what files you’re downloading. All they will see is that you’re connected to our VPN server.
In addition, a VPN hides your real IP address and replaces it with the IP address of the VPN server you’re connected to. This makes it appear as if your traffic is coming from a different location and makes it more difficult (if not impossible) for cybercriminals to locate any relevant information about you.
How can I tell if I’m a victim of spoofing?
There are a few different ways you can tell if you’re a victim of spoofing. If you receive an email that looks like it’s from a trusted sender but contains strange or out-of-character content, it’s possible that your email account has been spoofed. Look for strange URLs, spelling mistakes, and slight design differences. These are all telltale signs that something is not right.
Finally, you can contact the supposed sender of the email to confirm that they actually sent it. If they didn’t, then you know for sure that you’ve been spoofed.
What’s the best way to prevent spoofing attacks?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The best way to prevent spoofing attacks depends on the type of attack you’re dealing with.
For DNS, IP, and ARP spoofing, the best defense is to use a VPN. A VPN encrypts your traffic and hides your real IP address, making it much more difficult for attackers to spoof your identity.
For email spoofing, the best defense is to be vigilant about the emails you open and the links you click on. If you’re not expecting an email from someone, don’t open it. And if you’re unsure if a link is safe, don’t click on it. You can also use an email security solution that includes anti-spoofing measures. These solutions can detect and block emails that are trying to spoof your domain.
Will a free VPN protect me from spoofing attacks?
No. Free VPNs are notoriously unreliable and often lack the security features that are necessary to protect you from spoofing attacks. If you want to use a VPN for spoofing protection, we recommend using a reputable paid VPN service like ClearVPN.