Introduction 

If you are not from a technological background then you would have no idea about the potential threats of masquerading attacks and the level at which they affect the pc. Through this article on masquerade attacks, we aim to make you familiar with the various aspects of this cyber threat. We hope you find it useful.

  1. What is a Masquerade Attack?
  2. How to stay Protected from Masquerade Attacks?
  3. Examples of Masquerade Attacks 
  4. Difference between Masquerade Attacks and Replay Attacks 
  5. Detection of Masquerade Attacks
  6. How to Mitigate The Threat?
  7. Procedure Examples 
  8. Sub Techniques of Masquerading 

1) What is a Masquerade Attack?

Masquerade attack consists of a person imitating someone else’s identity and using legitimate sources to carry out cyber crimes in the victim’s name. this type of attack is primarily used for gaining unauthorized access to the victim’s systems or organization’s networks. They trick the victims into letting out sensitive and personal data by gaining unparalleled trust. Attackers send out phishing emails in order to pose as legitimate online sources and request the users for submission of personal information.

2) How to stay Protected from Masquerade Attacks?

  • never open emails or any sort of content that is being sent from anonymous sources 
  • always confirm the email’s authenticity by checking with the sender if possible or not indulging in opening the unimportant emails.
  • Its always advised using lengthy and difficult to crack passwords that consist of various type of characters.
  • If the option of two-factor authentication is available on an application then its always better to put it as an extra wall of security
  • Logging out of the accounts after a session is complete is necessary to avoid such threats 
  • Periodically changing passwords and never setting the same password for two applications is important 

3) Examples of Masquerade Attacks 

  • Tax phishing campaign – impersonation of legitimate tax authorities made the users trust this campaign.HTML and URL attachments were a part of the phishing emails which upon being opened took the victims to spoofed login pages. The victims were asked for their financial information as the page simultaneously collected their login information for the next use. Right after this whole process, the victims are again redirected to the official site to prevent suspicion.
  • Gaining unauthorized access and stealing data – a massive data breach was witnessed in 2013 at the target which put the personal information of 70 million customers under the bus. The credentials of the target’s HVAC associate – Fazio Mechanical Services were stolen which were further used for gaining access to target hosted web services. The attackers even came across a web vulnerability which they obviously exploited. Then they used a technique called ‘pass the hash’ to impersonate the active directory administrator. Ultimately they were successful in stealing customers’ payment card details and personal information.

4) Difference between Masquerade Attacks and Replay Attacks 

Whereas masquerade attacks are about impersonation someone else for retrieving personal information, replay attacks are about sending the same code or link to someone in order to produce the same effect and get the same job done.

5) Detection of Masquerade Attacks

  • collection of file hashes – If the file name does not match with its expected hash, then its potentially threatening.
  • File monitoring – files that have known names but are placed in unusual locations are sources of suspicion. The same goes for files that lie outside of the modification patch. If the name of the file doesn’t match at the two locations – disk and binary metadata PE then it was renamed after compilation and is most certainly a corrupted file. The internal name, original file name and product name should all match across all domains. Right to left override characters or spaces at the end of the file name are some other ways by which

misidentified files can be looked out for.

6) How to Mitigate The Threat?

  • Code signing – necessary requirement of signed binaries
  • Execution prevention – restricting program execution
  • Restricting file and directory permissions – protecting folders using file system access controls (C:\Windows\System32)

7) Procedure Examples 

  • APT32 – disguised as a flash installer 
  • Bronze butler – disguised as word files and pdfs 
  • Dacls – disguised as a nib.file 
  • Drangonfly 2.0 – disguised as service accounts and email administration accounts 
  • MenuPass – changed the disguised masquerading txt.file typed to their original name
  • Ramsay – masqueraded as a JPG image file type 
  • RTM – disguised as PDF document files 
  • Trickbot – masqueraded as Microsoft word documents 
  • Windshift – usage of icons mimicking MS office files 
  • Windtail – MS office files to mask payloads 

8) Sub Techniques of Masquerading 

  • Entering invalid code signature 
  • Right to left override technique 
  • Entering space after the filename 
  • Renaming system facilities 
  • Completely matching legitimate name and location 

Masquerading remains a very big cyber threat because of its ability to hide so well into the system that it becomes difficult to identify and remove it. Steps should be taken on all devices to prevent these attacks from happening.

After taking a thorough reading of this article, we hope you’ve become more aware of the ill effects of masquerade attacks and how to prevent them. We hope you found this article to be of use and learnt something today.

So, have you made up your mind to make a career in Cyber Security? Visit our Master Certificate in Cyber Security (Red Team) for further help. It is the first program in offensive technologies in India and allows learners to practice in a real-time simulated ecosystem, that will give them an edge in this competitive world.

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