Join our webinar hosted by Cyberint's CEO

Threat Intelligence

Cyber Threats on Sale – A Black Friday Special Intelligence Report

INTRODUCTION

Threats to the e-commerce industry have increased in the last year as multiple threat actors have complicated their attacking tactics, tools and procedures in order to gain higher efficiency and quick profit. The following report will cover the major threats in the upcoming holiday season and provide critical information and mitigation steps.

Over the course of time, a trend that started in the United States has been adopted across the globe.It is the Friday after Thanksgiving, called Black Friday. Many shopping centers, supermarkets and malls open early – sometimes even as early as midnight – and offer lucrative discounts that can tempt anyone to go on a shopping spree.

As we have transitioned to a cyber-dependent era, the Black Friday tradition adapted to the current cyber landscape, offering a much more diverse selections of deals and an easier way of shopping with the effortless access of online shopping or “e-Shopping”, simply using a mobile device.

Biggest Threats on Black Friday

Ransomware

The biggest threat to date is still ransomware, especially on the busiest Friday of the year. With every customer racing to many online shops to find the best deals they can, it is a great opportunity for threat actors to capitalize on this event.

Global Threat

The ransomware industry maintains its grip on western victims, with the US, Canada, and western-European countries being the most targeted. The ransomware groups are banking on the sensitive timing and may set a new record. The groups are attempting to be as efficient as possible by launching attacks on e-commerce-based companies in order to profit quickly.

Several new ransom groups have emerged recently, one of which is the Royal ransomware group, which has claimed over 30 victims in the last two weeks and relies heavily on malicious advertising (aka malvertising). The group employs a variety of delivery methods, including using contact forms on targeted organizations’ websites to deliver phishing links, hosting Trojans and using Google Ads in at least one of their campaigns, effectively blending in with normal traffic.

Ransomware Regional Distribution in Q3
Ransomware Regional Distribution in Q3

Financial Sector

With the latest news on Medibank’s ransomware breach, the perpetrators, believed to be a Russian-based cybercrime group, released confidential information about Medibank and its customers following the institution’s refusal to pay. They leaked comprehensive information about all Australian Health Management members, including details about their health and medical history.

It is very evident from this breach that the ransomware group’s tactic of Double Extortion is being used, with them encrypting the victims’ data to render it inaccessible and stealing that same data and threatening to release it publicly.

As of this writing, Medibank has adamantly refused to pay the ransom. The amount currently demanded by the ransomware group is $10 million. With this breach, the foreseeable financial damages that Medibank is facing are around A$700 million in compensation alone, according to Bloomberg.

Medibank Data Leak
Medibank Data Leak

Retail Sector

In line with the increased consumer demand that emerged during the COVID pandemic, companies have increased investment in cloud systems, IT and OT infrastructure, extended supply chains and third-party services, and increased overall uptime in order to enhance the consumer experience. As a result, retailers have also increased their attack surface that Threat Actors are liable to exploit. With Cyberint’s ASM (Attack Surface Mapping), we can provide visibility of the true attack surface, map the digital assets that clients are aware of or unaware of, and are capable of identifying malicious or rogue assets.

With one of the busiest seasons of the year for consumer purchases looming, Threat Actors are keen to exploit this precarious time to earn a profit, as they also expect that companies will be keener to pay the ransom if it negatively affects sales and projected profits. This is also confirmed in recent trends, with retail organizations suffering more ransomware attacks than the global average.

The most prevalent infection vectors for ransomware are commonplace spear-phishing emails or sophisticated phishing campaigns that emulate Microsoft interfaces and other commonly used interfaces for businesses.

Phishing

According to data on last year’s Black Friday, many of the threats, especially Phishing attacks, are most present during this period of intensive shopping sprees. They include massive amounts of Black Friday related phishing frauds and fake infrastructures. Threat actors create fake websites, domain impersonations, fake mobile applications and malicious emails in a bid to harvest users’ financial and personal identity information.

Phishing Trends
Phishing Trends

Global Threat

A week before Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Amazon left hundreds of relational database (RDS) instances open, leading to extensive personal information leakage. This is only one of multiple data leakages that have occurred in the past year, providing threat actors with important information that can be leveraged into successful phishing attacks. Each holiday season during the last five years has consistently reached new heights in sales levels, but this also correlates with customer losses as more high-end spoofing websites keep appearing and luring more users into purchases.

Financial Sector

While most financial entities are preparing for the year’s biggest weekend, the Threat Actors are constantly focused on the approaching Black Friday. The screenshot below shows that some of the Threat Actors and Groups are in active collaboration with each other, looking for additional tools for their arsenal.

A Threat Actor Preparing for the Black FridaySale
A Threat Actor Preparing for the Black FridaySale

In the conversation above, a Threat Actor is preparing for his upcoming “fake shop” – a phishing site to be deployed when the clock strikes Black Friday. According to telemetry data, there has been an observable increase in malicious activities aimed at the financial sector. This includes phishing websites and, compromised payment cards and credentials.

October vs November Data on Malicious Related Activities for the Financial Sector
October vs November Data on Malicious Related Activities for the Financial Sector

While just into the second half of November, data shows that the number of malicious activities targeting the financial sector is already catching up with last month’s data. Although there are several factors to consider, the increase  is an indicator that the offenders are intensifying activity in preparation for the coming Black Friday and Cyber Monday tradition – a tempting opportunity for them to be able to cash in.

Looking back at the previous year’s trend, Threat Actors who specialize in phishing stepped up their game to steal account credentials for e-payment (electronic/online payment) platforms. October 2021 saw the activity doubled, compared to the month before.

Philippine E-payment Platform Phishing Site
Philippine E-payment Platform Phishing Site

While banking credentials are still mostly targeted, as of this writing, phishing actors are shifting to e-payment systems, as those have risen in popularity by a wide margin during the last two years.

Source: Kaspersky
Source: Kaspersky

Retail Sector

Despite recent news of the expected economic downturn and the impact of the Covid pandemic of 2019-2021, it is predicted that holiday sales in 2022 will stay strong, and even grow by $20 billion dollars, according to the ‘National Retail foundation’. While consumers are predicted to remain resilient, so, too, are the Threat Actors preparing for the season with increased fraud and cyberthreat activity, taking advantage of retailer discounts, higher sales volumes and fraud controls that are often relaxed in order to improve buyer experience.

Consequently, this also increases Threat Actors’ desire to invest more in fraudulent e-commerce websites and sophisticated phishing sites to steal customer credit cards and credentials. As a result, the risk of fraudulent purchases rises, exposing businesses to increased legal claims and potential financial liability.

One of the most popular techniques makes use of “site cloning”, whereby Threat Actors duplicate customer interfaces by copying their source code and leveraging them to harvest customer credentials or sensitive personal identity information. The second most popular cloned brand (after Microsoft) is PayPal, which is exploited for fraudulent purchases on various retail platforms. Threat Actors later sell the products at a discount on other marketplaces.

Simple, yet Effective Cloned PayPal Interface Used by Various Threat Actors
Simple, yet Effective Cloned PayPal Interface Used by Various Threat Actors

On our Argos Threat Intelligence platform, we have also detected an overall increase in Threat Actor engagement and various “buyers” for the aforementioned activities, due to the various “Black Friday Sales.” We also expect increases in fraudulent purchases on the various retail platforms and credential-stuffing activities, since Threat Actors can demand a premium for credentials that were verified in advance.

Black Friday’ Promotion for a Nefarious Shop Selling Stolen Credentials
'Black Friday’ Promotion for a Nefarious Shop Selling Stolen Credentials

With Microsoft being the most impersonated brand, employees are constantly at risk, especially with the expected promotions for Black Friday and holiday gifts. As it is not unusual to receive holiday gifts or vouchers from the employer during the holidays, employees are more prone to fall for phishing scams, particularly if the phishing emails are able to successfully mimic the company email domain.

Classic Microsoft Phishing Interface
Classic Microsoft Phishing Interface

Sophisticated Threat Actors are expected to capitalize on this expectation with phishing campaigns that target several sectors. This might be demonstrated by forcing employees to confirm their credentials before they can “acquire” the purported gift from the company, or by sending fake Gift Cards. These harvested credentials can later be used by threat actors to exfiltrate sensitive, internal information and even access internal systems that will authorize these credentials or similar ones.

BestBuy Gift Card Phishing Attempt Targeting an Employee
BestBuy Gift Card Phishing Attempt Targeting an Employee

Additional Attacks

Black Market, Black Friday

Much like the others, bigger Threat Actors and Groups have markets (black market), too, in which they also offer deals and discounts to the small timers for leaks involving data from financial entities, such as banks.

Threat Group advertising a subscription on Data Leaks in a Telegram Group Channel.
Threat Group advertising a subscription on Data Leaks in a Telegram Group Channel.

At the top of the echelon, bigger threat groups are also preparing for their Black Friday sale. The group is known to be actively involved in data breaches and leaks against large, leading companies all over the world, particularly targeting financial companies.

Humint Interaction with a Well-Known Threat Group.
Humint Interaction with a Well-Known Threat Group.

Stolen and Clone Payment Cards Used for Black Friday Purchases

We all know that with the coming sales and discounts for Black Friday, Threat Actors will try to utilize stolen Financial Data to purchase bargain deals online to monetize their illegal assets. As seen in the screenshot below, many of the Threat Actors with expertise in Payment Card theft are at peak activity to prepare for the coming black Friday, since this is the peak season to purchase digitally.  As such, they are selling stolen online banking accounts for use by whoever purchases the stolen data.

Online Banking Accounts being sold in preparation for the Black Friday Sale
Online Banking Accounts being sold in preparation for the Black Friday Sale

Clone Cards are in a special situation for the coming sale. They are very tricky for Threat Actors to use, but at the moment they still work. With the coming Black Friday Sale, Cyberint predicts widespread use of illegally cloned payment cards from the black market.

Cloned Payment Cards being sold in preparation for the Black Friday Sale
Cloned Payment Cards being sold in preparation for the Black Friday Sale

Fraudulent refund services and tutorials are still prevalent on dark web forums. Threat actors file fraudulent chargebacks, claiming that the products have not arrived or were not the products purchased and exploiting retailers’ good faith policies. The business impact for retailers is direct revenue loss, especially compounded when combined with the sales expected by consumers on Black Friday.

 

Promotional ’Black Friday’ Refund Services
Promotional ’Black Friday’ Refund Services
Promotional ’Black Friday’ Refund Services

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Be vigilant when shopping online during this period; be extra observant searching for any website typographical errors, branding mistakes and impersonations, or any indicators that a website is fraudulent.
  • Shop only on secured websites beginning with HTTPs in their URL, and always enable two/multi-factor authentication on every online account used.
  • With cybercriminals in full activity from the sale of harvested credentials in the Black Market, it’s also good practice to monitor bank statements to be able to spot any unusual purchases or irregular activities. If you see any unauthorized payments, report the activity to the bank immediately.
  • Consider implementing Cyberint’s phishing beacon – our “site cloning” solution that can proactively alert about website source code being pasted on non-company pages.
  • Spear-phishing emails is the most common way for ransomware to infect an organization; email gateway protection is crucial, as is adding proper Endpoint Protection controls (EDR, updated antivirus). Avoid spoofing through the correct configuration of DMARC, SPF, and DKIM records.
  • Prepare employees and staff by reviewing known, recent threats, scenarios and disaster-recovery plans. Organizations should take every precaution to ensure that their staff is properly trained to prevent successful cyber-attacks such as phishing attempts.
  • Backup your data. In the event of a ransomware attack, it is always advised to never pay any ransom attempt. In such an event, anyone infected with ransomware should restore to the safest known back up and perform any necessary clean-up to prevent further infection.
  • It is no secret that people are prone to reusing the same passwords with similar iterations between each password cycle or on third-party services. Therefore, it is important to avoid using organizational credentials for personal use and to refrain from using identical passwords in multiple interfaces and services.
  • As the holiday shopping season brings increased fraud activity, retailers are vulnerable to revenue loss and reputation damage from both legitimate and fraudulent chargebacks, as well as higher operational costs. In preparation, fraud checks on buyer payment cards should be tweaked and heightened.

Uncover your compromised credentials from the deep and dark web.

Fill in your business email to start.