How Modern Phishing Defeats Basic Multi-Factor Authentication

September 30, 2020 3 minute read

Two years ago, at the internet security conference Black Hat US, the Yubico team was invited to speak about how advanced phishing works and how FIDO authentication standards and YubiKeys can help mitigate these attacks.

Today’s hackers increasingly hijack one-time use codes and push notifications during the brief window when they are valid, and the attack and account takeover is all but invisible for the user.

With the recent spike in spear phishing using these methods, we decided to build on our previous work and show what it’s like to be phished with these modern techniques when using several types of basic multi-factor authentication.

If some of these terms are unfamiliar, don’t worry, we will go over them in this video.


These links have the details of the recent attacks. Krebs’ article in particular shows screenshots of some of the phishing pages used against several targets. Twitter was even quite open and posted publicly about their related security incident.

A different set of similar attacks happened over the last few years and are very serious. Amnesty International has three in-depth articles which detail phishing techniques used by seemingly politically motivated attackers against human rights defenders, journalists, and civil society organizations in the Middle East, Egypt, and Northern Africa during 2018 and 2019. This is a clear example of how attackers know their victims, and will use things they care about (security) to try and trick them.

Also not covered here are attacks on SMS based authentication where the phone network is leveraged via backbone connections or sim swaps to intercept the code that the victim was supposed to get. Read below to learn more about this:

The way I was able to make fairly clean phishing pages over the course of roughly a day was by using the open source phishing framework called Evilginx2 by Kuba Gretzky and hacking in some tweaks and javascript. If you’re interested in the details of how these attacks are done under the hood, or want to see some other great examples against other services, please see Kuba’s fantastic talk here.

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