Domain spoofing: Types and how to prevent them

Gincy Mol A G
Published on
28 Nov 2023
13 min read
Cyber attacks

Domain spoofing is a cyberattack technique where malicious actors forge or impersonate a legitimate domain name in order to deceive recipients and carry out various malicious activities.

It’s a more advanced form of email spoofing that focuses on manipulating the domain name itself, making it appear as if the email or website is coming from a trusted source.

What is domain spoofing?

Domain spoofing is a phishing technique in which an attacker uses a company’s domain to act as the legitimate entity, the business, or its employees.

Attackers disguise themselves as another person, organization, or entity to perform malicious activities using a variety of tactics.

It can be as simple as spoofing email addresses, websites, or phone numbers to advanced spoofing methods including spoofed IP addresses or Domain Name Servers (DNS), to convince victims into giving confidential information, downloading attachments, or baiting them into clicking links that install malware.

Cybercriminals choose to spoof the most familiar or popular email addresses, websites, and other online entities.

This reduces the level of doubt and reluctance, making it possible to take advantage of the human nature of trust. The term domain spoofing is used for several types of fraudulent activities:

  1. Spoofing the domain by using an email address with the recipient’s domain name as the sender address.

  2. Attackers may use a visually similar domain name, sometimes called HTTPS spoofing or an IDN homograph attack.

Types of domain spoofing

There are different kinds of domains of spoofing. These includes:

Email spoofing

Email Spoofing is a technique in which an attacker uses a fake email address with the domain of a legitimate website.

Domain verification is not built into the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP), the protocol that email is built on, thus making it vulnerable.

Email security protocols that were developed more recently such as SPF, DKIM and DMARC etc. provide stronger verification.

There are lots of ways to mask the true origins of an email.

Most people know that it’s a risk to download files or click on links that appear in emails from unknown senders. But the email will be convincing enough to make the receiver act without a second thought.

The use of subdomains in a different way can make emails look like they are arriving from trusted sources.

Depending on the email spoofing technique, an attacker sends an email, with the email address and sender name that looks like it came from a familiar party, such as a government agency, colleague, or a bank.

Additionally, the attacker may grab multiple identities or roles in spoofing, that of the sender, the company, or both of them.

For example, Acme is a multinational company. One fine day, Patrick, an employee at Acme receives an email and the sender’s name is

In a big multinational company, it is difficult to find out whether John is an actual person or not. Trusting that John is his colleague at Acme, Patrick does the legitimate work-related tasks that require immediate action.

Using a familiar domain name and company logo, John, who doesn’t work at Acme, was able to trick Patrick into doing some malicious activity that was beneficial for him.

The spoofed email uses important and convincing language to prompt the receiver to make a quick reaction.

This way – it limits the chance for hesitation and questioning and convinces the recipient to do the task as the right thing.

Email Spoofing best practices

  1. Inspect the email - Misplaced letters, spelling errors or an incorrect domain name in the sender’s email address indicate a spoofed email. It’s best to cross-check the legitimacy of a person and the email.

  2. Source of email - unexpected requests and warnings are often from scammers.

  3. Nature of email - Email language that urges you to act quickly, initiate financial transactions or provide confidential information.

  4. Structure of email - For embedded links, highlight the URL before clicking to double-check the legitimacy.

  5. Check for download file or link - Be vigilant against email messages that urge you to download an attachment. Also, verify that the attachment is not a hidden executable file.

Website spoofing

Website spoofing uses fake websites that look legitimate. A popular technique used is URL masking.

A spoofed website looks exactly like a real website with almost the same visual elements as layout, colour, logo etc.

Without a very close and thorough inspection, it’s very difficult to identify a spoofed website.

Spoofed websites are mainly used for stealing credentials or some sensitive information like credit card information, installing malicious software, etc.

Phishing techniques like URL cloaking are the most used methods for spoofed websites.

Using specialized scripts, phishers can use the URL of trusted organizations to disguise malicious URLs, which may appear to be in the right format and are trusted without any suspicion.

To spoof a website, attackers can use Unicode characters or the characters from other languages that are almost exactly the same as ASCII characters.

Website spoofing best practices

  1. Check for padlock - The lock icon (padlock) displayed in the browser indicates that the communication channel between the client browser and the server is secure. So, if the padlock is missing from the website address bar, the website is not secure, and it is likely spoofed.

  2. Check with autofill - To protect against automatically logging into a spoofed website, use a password manager to store login details of the website. The password manager will not autofill your login details unless it recognizes the website.

  3. Inspect the website - Misplaced letters, spelling errors, broken links, can all be indicators that the website has been spoofed.

DNS spoofing

DNS Spoofing, also known as DNS Cache Poisoning, is a cyberattack technique in which attackers manipulate the Domain Name System (DNS) to redirect traffic from legitimate websites to malicious ones.

The goal of DNS spoofing is to lead users to fraudulent websites or servers controlled by attackers, where they might unwittingly share sensitive information, download malware, or become victims of various types of cybercrime.

Best practices in DNS spoofing

  1. Use Reputable DNS Servers: Configure your systems to use DNS servers from well-known, trusted, and reputable sources. Avoid using public Wi-Fi networks or untrusted networks that could potentially redirect your DNS queries.

  2. Implement DNS Filtering and Firewall Rules: Use DNS filtering services or firewall rules to block access to known malicious or spoofed domains. Apply whitelisting and blacklisting rules to control access to specific domains.

  3. Monitor DNS Traffic: Implement network monitoring and intrusion detection systems to detect unusual or unauthorized DNS activities. Monitor your DNS logs for signs of suspicious behavior or repeated requests for the same domain.

  4. Regularly Update DNS Software: Keep your DNS server software up to date to ensure you have the latest security patches and protections. Regularly update your DNS client software on end-user devices as well.

  5. Segment Your Network: Segregate your network into different segments or VLANs to minimize the potential impact of a DNS spoofing attack.

How is domain spoofing exploited?

Domain spoofing attacks involve forging or impersonating a legitimate domain name to deceive users, manipulate their behavior, or carry out malicious activities.

There are various methods attackers use to execute domain spoofing attacks:

1. Phishing emails and spoofed sender addresses

Attackers send emails with a forged “From” address that appears to come from a legitimate source, such as a well-known company, organization, or individual.

The email content often includes urgent or enticing messages to manipulate recipients into taking action, such as clicking on links, downloading attachments, or revealing sensitive information.

Recipients may be directed to fake websites that resemble legitimate ones, where they unknowingly provide their credentials or personal data.

2. Fake websites and typo squatting

Attackers create websites with domain names that are intentionally like legitimate ones through a technique known as “typo squatting.”

Users who mistype a legitimate domain name in the address bar may end up on the spoofed website, which is designed to deceive and trick users into believing it is the real site.

3. DNS cache poisoning

Attackers manipulate the DNS system to inject fraudulent DNS records into DNS caches.

When a user attempts to access a legitimate website, their device consults the compromised DNS cache and is provided with the IP address of a malicious server controlled by the attacker.

Users are redirected to the attacker-controlled server instead of the genuine website.

4. Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) attacks

In a MitM attack, attackers intercept and manipulate network communications between the user and the legitimate server.

Attackers position themselves between the user and the legitimate server, allowing them to control or modify the traffic.

They may use domain spoofing to present a fake version of the website to the user.

5. Caller ID and SMS spoofing

Attackers manipulate caller ID information in voice calls or sender information in SMS messages to impersonate trusted entities.

This technique is often used to convince users to provide sensitive information over the phone or via text message.

6. Malicious advertisements (mal advertising)

Attackers create ads with malicious code and place them on websites, often through ad networks.

When users visit the compromised website, they may unknowingly interact with the malicious ad, leading to domain spoofing or other forms of cyberattacks.

The goal of domain spoofing attacks varies, but they generally aim to steal sensitive information, distribute malware, engage in financial fraud, or deceive users for malicious purposes.

To defend against domain spoofing, organizations and users should implement security measures such as email authentication protocols, DNSSEC, regular system updates, user education, and network monitoring.

What are the protective mechanisms to prevent domain spoofing?

To prevent domain spoofing and enhance your overall cybersecurity posture, consider implementing the following protective mechanisms and best practices:

1. Implement email authentication protocols

SPF (Sender Policy Framework): Specify authorized IP addresses that can send email on behalf of your domain.

DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail): Digitally sign outgoing emails to verify their authenticity.

DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance): Set policies to instruct email servers on how to handle emails that fail SPF or DKIM checks.

2. Enable DNSSEC (Domain Name System Security Extensions)

DNSSEC cryptographically signs DNS records to ensure their integrity and authenticity, making it harder for attackers to manipulate DNS responses.

3. Use strong DMARC policies

Set a strict DMARC policy (such as “p=reject”) to instruct email servers to reject or quarantine emails that fail authentication checks.

4. Regularly clear DNS cache

Periodically clear DNS caches on DNS servers, routers, and end-user devices to reduce the risk of using cached malicious DNS records.

5. Use reputable DNS servers

Configure your systems to use DNS servers from trusted and reputable sources to minimize the risk of DNS manipulation.

6. DNS filtering and firewall rules

Deploy DNS filtering solutions or firewall rules to block access to known malicious or spoofed domains.

7. Regularly update DNS software

Implement network monitoring tools to detect unusual or unauthorized DNS activities, as well as intrusion detection systems to identify potential threats.

Keep your DNS server software up to date with the latest security patches and updates.

8. Backup and recovery

Maintain regular backups of your DNS server configurations and zone data for quick recovery in case of a compromise.

Implement general security best practices for system hardening, patch management, and access control.

By combining these protective mechanisms, you can create a strong defense against domain spoofing attacks and other related cyber threats. It’s important to take a comprehensive approach to cybersecurity and stay vigilant to emerging threats and vulnerabilities.

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Written by
Gincy Mol A G
Gincy Mol A G
AI Engineer
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