The need for phishing-resistant MFA has become more apparent in recent times. Some experts estimate that as of 2020, spear phishing is linked to upwards of 95 percent of all successful attacks against organizational networks in both the private and public sectors. 2021 also saw some of the largest security breaches ever, including the Colonial Pipeline and SolarWinds hacks. In an attempt to address the growing threat, the White House released its cybersecurity executive order and Zero Trust Strategy with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), mandating US federal agencies to use only multi-factor authentication (MFA) that can resist phishing attacks by the end of 2024. Today’s hackers increasingly hijack phishable 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.
- Andy Greenberg’s Wired article
- Brian Krebs’ post on widespread corporate phishing/vishing
- The FBI and DHS’s CISA joint advisory on these matters
- Sean Hollister’s The Verge article on the subsequent arrests
- Twitter’s public blog post on the attacks they faced, what happened, and what they’re doing
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 reddit incident in 2018
- AT&T and Verizon insiders charged with helping criminals get access to phone numbers
- Twitter’s Jack Dorsey account taken over by SIM swapping