What is Pharming and How to Prevent It?

By Haseeb Awan

Pharming Meaning And Definition

Pharming, a combination of the words "farming" and "phishing," is a type of internet scam where sensitive info obtain through manipulating website traffic. In short, it involves creating a fake website and then tricking consumers into visiting it.

What Is Pharming?

Pharming is an example of a new type of cyberattack that targets websites, apps, or connected devices to exploit vulnerabilities in their digital trust systems. In other words, pharming is the malicious redirection of a website or application to a fake site to trick users into submitting their login information or other sensitive data.

Pharming examples share among sites and apps with low user trust and little reputation monitoring. For example, let's say you're using a Wi-Fi connection at your local coffee shop. That network is your trusted access point for internet connectivity. If someone were to create another Wi-Fi network with the same name as the one connects to (e.g., "Starbucks Public HotSpot"), your computer would connect to it without hesitation—most likely because it appears legitimate and trustworthy.

That is called a man-in-the-middle attack. It means that the second network has gained control over the network that you trust (i.e., your trusted access point) and is now intercepting all communications between you and the internet provider of your trusted network (i.e., Starbucks). It essentially gives this third party control over all communication between you and your trusted network—and they can see everything going back and forth between them.

How Does Pharming Attack Work?

It is possible to tamper with how the internet functions by pharming. It converts a sequence of internet addresses, such as www.google.com, into an IP address that permits internet browsing. A pharming attack may occur in one of two methods: 

  • A Trojan or virus may be installed on a person's computer using an email. This malicious code will then modify the computer's host file to direct traffic away from its target and toward a phishing website. Regardless of if you enter the correct internet address, you will still be taken to the fraudulent website, as the corrupted host file will steer you there.
  • A farmer may use DNS poisoning to fool people. DNS is a method hackers might use to fool people into visiting a bogus website instead of a legitimate one. Using the DNS table on a server, a farmer might fool multiple people into visiting a fake website instead of a legitimate one. Patients may be infected with a virus or Trojan or have their identities stolen due to visiting a fake website.

A DNS server may attack by DNS poisoning, resulting in many victims and high rewards for cybercriminals. It is more challenging to attack DNS servers located on an organization's network and protected by its defences. If a poisoned DNS server sends information to an ISP, the corrupted DNS entry may be cached on the ISP's servers and spread to even more routers and devices. The minimal level of effort required by the victim makes pharming scams so perilous. Even if the user's computer is malware-free, it can still be infected. Even if the user always uses trustworthy bookmarks or manually enters the website address, they can still become a victim as the misdirection comes after sending a connection request. Because the redirection occurs after the computer issues a connection query, even preventative methods like manually typing the website address or always using reliable bookmarks are worthless.

Farmers may utilize your details for their fraudulent activities or, after obtaining them, trade them to other cybercriminals on the dark web.

What's The Main Difference Between Phishing And Pharming?

Phishing and pharming cons are closely associated but are different. When you receive an email from a cybercriminal pretending to be a respected organization, it's a phishing scam. Pharming is a fraud where criminals create fake websites to trick people into entering their personal information. Pharming websites create to appear like reliable organizations. Once you enter your information on a pharming site, Cyber criminals can use it for illegal purposes.

The pharming attack is phishing without the enticement aspect, which begins with, malicious code installation on your computer or server. Pharming has two phases: First, hackers install malicious code on your computer or server. Computer pharming doesn't necessitate clicking on a fake website; instead, you redirect automatically there. Cybercriminals then receive any personal information you divulge when you divulge it.

There is no lure in pharming, but phishing often occurs through email, social media, or text messages requesting your financial information. Because of this, pharming has been called 'phishing without a lure.' Pharming can affect many computers without any conscious effort on the victims' part, making it more dangerous than phishing. Because it requires more effort on the attackers' part, pharming attacks are less common than phishing.

Pharming Methods and Techniques

" Pharming," a cybercrime where you send to a replicated website instead of the one you want to visit, works by manipulating the address you type into the search bar. Let's look at the methods and techniques employed by pharming criminals.

Pharming Malware

Threat actors trick you into clicking on corrupted links using various witty methods to make you avoid clicking. They send you an illegitimate email with a link or attachment containing malware. They may even direct you to another website from which you can install malware on your device.

Whenever you type a specific web address, your browser is redirected to a malicious website if your computer infects with malware. Since overwriting host files is how pharming attacks are so prevalent and successful, it isn't easy to eliminate them once they begin. To clean your device thoroughly, you must run an anti-malware program.

DNS Poisoning

DNS poisoning is a type of cyber attack that aims to redirect users from their intended destination. It does this by injecting fake DNS records and faking website IP addresses.

DNS stands for Domain Name System. It's a protocol to convert an internet user's readable site name (e.g., Google.com) into readable IP addresses (e.g., 173.193.111.19). 

A hacker can use this technique to trick users into thinking they are going to one website when they are going to another one instead — usually one that benefits the hacker in some way, like phishing sites or malicious software download sites. That is why it's often referred to as "URL Poisoning" or "URL Redirection Attack".

Pharming Examples

In 2019, a significant pharming assault took place in Venezuela. That year, the President of Venezuela publicly appealed for volunteers to join the "Voluntarios for Venezuela" (Volunteers for Venezuela) movement. The goal of this organization was to link volunteers with international organizations that were providing humanitarian assistance to the country. Individuals signed up via a website that requested their full names, personal IDs, phone numbers, locations, and other personal information.

Within a week of the original website launching, a second web presence appeared. This one was almost identical, with the same domain name and structure. It was, nevertheless, a counterfeit. Within Venezuela, Attackers routed the genuine and bogus websites to the same IP address owned by the fake domain. Therefore, the information of any user who visited the bogus website would ultimately end up at the fake website, no matter which site they initially visited. (Outside the country, they route to a different IP address.)

Cybercriminals sent phishing emails to users of UTStarcom or TR-Link home routers in Brazil in 2015, pretending to be from the country's largest telecom company. Pharming malware that took advantage of router vulnerabilities to change the DNS server settings downloaded from links in the emails.

Hackers created an impersonation website for each of the 50 financial companies across the US, Europe, and Asia in 2007. That is one of the most potent and well-known pharming attacks in history. Hackers created malicious code to be downloaded onto consumers' computers, forcing them to download a Trojan. Criminals collected login information from any of the targeted financial companies after hackers forced victims' computers to download the Trojan over three days. The magnitude of the damage is difficult to determine, but the attack is well-known.

Signs of a Pharming Attack

Be on the lookout for any of the following warning signs.

  • Every time you notice financial activities you didn't initiate, it's time to check your accounts.
  • You may also receive email responses you didn't request if your device got hacked.
  • Unusual or unfamiliar actions on your social media accounts may indicate that your device got hacked.
  • You must check your device to see if your anti-virus, anti-malware, or other security software got deactivated.
  • You may also install new software on your device without your approval.
  • There are frequent pop-ups that redirect you to a phishing website.
  • Your device starts with strange messages or programs; malware is likely to present.
  • Pharming malware may use a lot of memory and cause your system to crash or hang.

Why is Pharming More Dangerous?

Pharming is more dangerous than phishing because these assaults may rapidly become widespread. In addition, it is hard to identify and contain them. To protect your business image, follow the suggestions listed below.

How to Mitigate Pharming Attacks?

You now have a sufficient understanding of what a pharming attack is; therefore, it's essential to discover some valuable methods for avoiding one. What you can do is:

Use a Secure Web Connection

Users connect to the internet daily, whether for work, school, or personal use. Many people access the internet from various devices and locations; some users even have internet-enabled devices in their homes. 

Whether you use the internet regularly or once in a while, it's essential to understand how to keep your information private and what precautions you should take to protect your identity and personal information.

Security measures are in place to help protect your data when using the internet. Whether you're browsing websites at home or connecting to Wi-Fi at a local coffee shop, dangers are lurking around every corner. Hackers can quickly gain access to your personal information and other sensitive details if you don't have security measures when using the internet. Here is why you should use a secure web connection whenever possible.

Choose a Trusted Internet Service Provider

Because your private information may be compromised, choose a reputable internet service provider. If your ISP is unreliable, hackers could access most of your files.

Be Cautious While Browsing

Today, Internet usage has become commonplace. Almost everyone uses the internet regularly, whether it's for business, entertainment, or staying in touch with friends and family. Nearly everyone uses the internet. As a result, most of us spend time browsing websites daily as an easy way to access the information we want to see. However, with this ease of access comes risk. 

This article will teach you about cyber safety and the risks associated with browsing the web. Keep reading to discover what you should know to stay safe while browsing online.

Refrain from Visiting HTTP URLs

Keep an eye out for the 'S' in HTTPS. Safe URLs begin with HTTPS because this indicates a trusted and secure website. An HTTP website has the potential to be harmful or contagious.

Pay Attention to URL Mistakes

Minor, unnoticeable alterations to URLs are how hackers trick you. At first, you might not notice it, but if you look carefully, you will glare at the errors.

Use Two-factor Authentication

In addition to passwords, two-factor authentication uses biometrics or one-time passwords to provide an extra layer of security. If someone steals your password, it will prevent it from being used. For example, you can receive an OTP or one-time password using your fingerprint, facial recognition, or retinal recognition. In some cases, You might use a QR code as well.

Final Thoughts

Even though phishing assaults are challenging to detect, you may defend yourself against them through cautious browsing practices. Victims trick into trusting phishing emails by impersonating reputable companies. When a phishing attack is successful, your brand's reputation is at risk. To keep hackers from sending illegitimate emails, you must set up SPF, DKIM, and DMARC protocols. It is possible to defend yourself against cyberattacks by being cautious.

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