Hackers can use Cyrillic characters in phishing emails to deceive recipients and make the emails appear legitimate or evade email filters. This technique is known as homograph phishing or internationalized domain name (IDN) spoofing.
What are Cyrillic Characters?
Cyrillic characters are a set of alphabetic characters used in various languages, primarily associated with Eastern Europe and parts of Asia. The Cyrillic script was developed in the First Bulgarian Empire during the 9th century AD and has since been adopted by multiple languages, including Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Serbian, and many others.
The Art of Homograph Phishing
Hackers employ a technique known as homograph phishing to trick users into clicking on malicious links. They replace certain characters in the domain name or URL with visually similar Cyrillic characters. For example, they might use the Cyrillic “а” instead of the Latin “a” or the Cyrillic “о” instead of the Latin “o”. These substituted characters may look identical or nearly indistinguishable to the untrained eye, making it easier for hackers to deceive users.
Example: Consider a phishing email claiming to be from a popular online retailer with a link to a fake website resembling the real one. By replacing a single character with a Cyrillic look-alike, such as “amaᴢon.com” instead of “amazon.com“, hackers can create a sense of familiarity and trick users into divulging personal information.
Cyrillic characters also serve as a means for hackers to bypass email filters and security mechanisms. Many filters rely on Latin character sets to detect phishing attempts. By incorporating non-Latin characters like Cyrillic, hackers can confuse these filters and make it harder for automated systems to flag the emails as suspicious. This tactic allows malicious emails to land in your inbox, increasing the likelihood of falling into their trap.
How To Protect Yourself From Phishing Attacks
To protect yourself from all kinds of phishing attacks, it is important to exercise caution and follow these preventive measures. Additionally, if you are a business owner or IT manager, you may want (or even be required by regulatory compliance laws) to provide your employees with Phishing Awareness Training and deploy an advanced email filtering solution.
- Verify the sender: Pay attention to the email sender’s address. Be cautious if you receive emails from suspicious or unfamiliar addresses, especially those that closely resemble legitimate domains.
- Scrutinize URLs: Hover your mouse cursor over links in emails to see the actual URL before clicking. Be cautious if the displayed link text differs from the destination URL or if the domain uses non-Latin characters.
- Enable email filtering: Make sure your email provider has spam and phishing filters enabled. These filters can help identify and flag potentially malicious emails.
- Be wary of urgent requests: Exercise caution when emails pressure you to take immediate action, especially if they involve sharing personal information or making financial transactions.
- Educate yourself: Stay informed about the latest phishing techniques and tactics. Regularly update your knowledge of online security practices to protect yourself from evolving threats.
Remember, it’s crucial to stay vigilant and think twice before clicking on any links or providing sensitive information online.
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