By Fabio Rodrigues
Phishing threat actors are using Captcha methods to bypass automated URL analysis. By using Captcha techniques to prove human presence, the phish prevents the secure email gateway (SEG), in this case Mimecast’s gateway, from scanning the URL thereby enabling the threat to get through. Here’s how it works.
The phishing email is sent from a compromised account at @avis.ne.jp as if it originated from a voip2mail service. The email alerts the recipient to a new voicemail message. The message is crafted in a simple format, with a preview of the voicemail to entice the recipient to click on the button to listen to the full message.
Figure 1: Email Body
This button is in fact an embedded hyperlink that will redirect the recipient to a page that contains a Captcha code to prove the victim is a human and not an automated analysis tool or, as Google puts it, “a robot.” It’s at this point that the SEG validation would fail. The SEG cannot proceed to and scan the malicious page, only the Captcha code site. This webpage doesn’t contain any malicious items, thus leading the SEG to mark it as safe and allow the user through.
Figure 2: Captcha Page
Once the human verification process is complete, the recipient is redirected to the real phishing page. In this example, it imitates the Microsoft account selector and login page. When unwitting victims login, their credentials are captured.
Figure 3: Phishing Page
As we can see, both the Captcha application page and the main phishing page are hosted on MSFT infrastructure. Both pages are legitimate Microsoft top level domains, so when checking these against domain reputation databases we receive a false negative and the pages come back as safe. SEGs frequently check URLS against reputation databases as part of a layered defense.
Table 1: Network IOCs
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