March 3rd 2023, New Delhi: If you have received any message that contains a link asking users to download an application to avail Income Tax Refund or KYC benefits with the name of Income Tax Department or reputed Banks, Beware!
CyberPeace Foundation and Autobot Infosec Private Limited along with the academic partners under CyberPeace Center of Excellence (CCoE) recently conducted five different studies on phishing campaigns that have been circulating on the internet by using misleading tactics to convince users to install malicious applications on their devices. The first campaign impersonates the Income Tax Department, while the rest of the campaigns impersonate ICICI Bank, State Bank of India, IDFC Bank and Axis bank respectively. The phishing campaigns aim to trick users into divulging their personal and financial information.
Image: Phishing pages and Malicious Applications
After a detailed study, the research team found that:
- All campaigns appear to be an offer from reputed entities, however hosted on third-party domains instead of the official website of the Income Tax Department or the respective Banks, raising suspicion.
- The applications ask several access permissions of the device. Moreover some of them seek users to provide full control of the device. Allowing such access permission could result in a complete compromise of the system, including access to sensitive information such as microphone recordings, camera footage, text messages, contacts, pictures, videos, and even banking applications.
- Cybercriminals created malicious applications using icons that closely resemble those of legitimate entities with the intention of enticing users into downloading the malicious applications.
- The applications collect user’s personal and banking information. Getting into this type of trap could lead users to face significant financial losses.
- While investigating the impersonated Income Tax Department’s application, the Research team identified the application sends http traffic to a remote server which acts as a Command and Control (CnC/C2) for the application.
- Customers who desire to avail benefits or refunds from respective banks, download relevant apps, believing that the chosen app will assist them. However, they are not always aware that the app may be fraudulent.
“The Research highlights the importance of being vigilant while browsing the internet and not falling prey to such phishing attacks. It is crucial to be cautious when clicking on links or downloading attachments from unknown sources, as they may contain malware that can harm the device or compromise the data.” spokesperson, CyberPeace added.
In addition to this in an earlier report released in last month, the same research team had drawn attention to the WhatsApp messages masquerading as an offer from Tanishq Jewellers with links luring unsuspecting users with the promise of free valentine’s day presents making the rounds on the app.
- The Research team recommends that people should avoid opening such messages sent via social platforms. One must always think before clicking on such links, or downloading any attachments from unauthorised sources.
- Downloading any application from any third party sources instead of the official app store should be avoided. This will greatly reduce the risk of downloading a malicious app, as official app stores have strict guidelines for app developers and review each app before it gets published on the store.
- Even if you download the application from an authorised source, check the app’s permissions before you install it. Some malicious apps may request access to sensitive information or resources on your device. If an app is asking for too many permissions, it’s best to avoid it.
- Keep your device and the app-store app up to date. This will ensure that you have the latest security updates and bug fixes.
- Falling into such a trap could result in a complete compromise of the system, including access to sensitive information such as microphone recordings, camera footage, text messages, contacts, pictures, videos, and even banking applications and could lead users to financial loss.
- Do not share confidential details like credentials, banking information with such types of Phishing scams.
- Never share or forward fake messages containing links on any social platform without proper verification.