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Phisher Abusing .com TLD?

Phishing campaigns almost always require a massive volume of domains in order to succeed. Phishers, after all, need to have readily weaponizable vectors at their disposal in case the ones they’re currently employing get detected and consequently blocked.

The Threat Intelligence Platform (TIP) research team recently uncovered an email address that belonged to the operator of an ongoing phishing operation that has seemingly been amassing an arsenal of .com domains. Using this address as a jump-off point, we sought to uncover all other potentially connected artifacts strewn all over the DNS. Our in-depth investigation into the threat found:

  • 507 domains registered using the email address identified as an indicator of compromise (IoC) in the past decade or so, 60 of which turned out to be malicious based on a bulk malware check
  • 99 IP addresses to which the email-connected domains resolved, 40 of which turned out to be malicious based on malware checks
  • 1,721 domains that shared the possibly dedicated hosts of the email-connected domains, 19 of which turned out to be malicious based on a bulk malware check

A sample of the additional artifacts obtained from our analysis is available for download from our website.

A Study of the Email-Connected Domains

We began our DNS deep dive by looking for domains that were registered using the email address identified as an IoC in the past 10 years or so. That led to the discovery of 507 email-connected domains. A TIP bulk malware check for them revealed that 60 of them were found malicious.

The WHOIS records of the 507 email-connected domains revealed these findings:

  • Registrars: A majority of the domains, 417 to be exact, didn’t have current retrievable WHOIS information at the time of writing. But for the 90 domains with available information, the top 3 registrars were GoDaddy (38 domains), Namecheap (6 domains), and TurnCommerce (5 domains). The remaining 41 domains were registered with 30 other registrars.
  • Creation dates: The 90 email-connected domains with current WHOIS records were created between 2013 and 2023. The highest number, 20 domains to be exact, were created in 2022.

  • Registrant countries: Only 81 of the 90 email-connected domains had the registrant country field filled, with the top 3 registrant countries being the U.S. (54 domains), China (6 domains), and Iceland (5 domains). The remaining 16 domains were registered in nine other countries.

An Analysis of the IP-Connected Domains

To uncover other potential threat vectors that may have already been used in or could be weaponized for attacks, we then scoured the DNS records of the email-connected domains for more information.

A closer look at the domains’ DNS records revealed that only 144 of the domains resolve to IP addresses as of this writing. Take a look at our findings below.

  • Removing the duplicates left us with 99 unique IP addresses. TIP malware checks showed that 40 of them were malicious.
  • Seven of the malicious IP addresses have been reported on AbuseIPDB between 26 and 42 times as of this writing as detailed in the following table.

    Malicious IP AddressNumber of Times Reported on AbuseIPDB
  • The top 3 countries where the IP addresses pointed to were the U.S. (40 IP addresses), Japan (19 IP addresses), and China (17 IP addresses). The 23 remaining IP addresses were geolocated in eight other countries.

  • The 98 IP addresses with available Internet service provider (ISP) information were distributed among 35 ISPs led by Amazon (19 IP addresses), RackIP Consultancy (17 IP addresses), and Microsoft (8 IP addresses).

Further scrutiny of the IP records allowed us to determine that while nine didn’t have connected domains, 40 of the IP addresses were possibly dedicated, playing host to a total of 1,721 domains, 19 of which turned out to be malicious based on a bulk TIP malware check.

A Closer Look at the Ties That Bound the Artifacts

Further scrutiny of the 79 malicious domains (60 email- and 19 IP-connected domains) led to the following findings:

  • The page hosted on the malicious email-connected domain bosll[.]com seemed to be mimicking a Windows Server page even if we couldn’t publicly attribute it to the product owner Microsoft based on a WHOIS record data comparison.
    Screenshot of bosll[.]com
  • A total of 34 email- and IP-connected malicious domains remained accessible as of this writing—22 led to live pages, eight were parked, and four led to error or warning pages. Many of those with live content looked like gambling sites, a few examples of which are shown below.

    Screenshot of d6891[.]com
    Screenshot of h9615[.]com
    Screenshot of kjfdc[.]com

    Is the Phisher Abusing .com?

    Earlier, we posited that the operators of this particular phishing campaign could be amassing a portfolio largely made up of .com domains. Our analysis of 2,228 domains in total (email- and IP-connected) revealed that a majority, 2,022 or 91%, did indeed sport .com as top-level domain (TLD) extension. The remaining 205 domains sported 35 other TLD extensions.

    Our in-depth investigation of the phishing operation allowed us to find 2,327 potentially connected domains and IP addresses from a single email address identified as an IoC. And, as we originally posited, this particular threat group had an arsenal of at least 2,022 .com domains at their disposal.

    If you wish to perform a similar investigation or learn more about the products used in this research, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

    Disclaimer: We take a cautionary stance toward threat detection and aim to provide relevant information to help protect against potential dangers. Consequently, it is possible that some entities identified as “threats” or “malicious” may eventually be deemed harmless upon further investigation or changes in context. We strongly recommend conducting supplementary investigations to corroborate the information provided herein.

By Threat Intelligence Platform (TIP), Enterprise-Grade Threat Intelligence APIs, Tools, and Services

Threat Intelligence Platform (TIP) offers easy to use threat intelligence tools, services, and APIs to get detailed information about hosts and the infrastructure behind them. Gathering data from different providers, utilizing our substantial internal databases (compiled for 10+ years), and also real-time host configuration analysis, our threat intelligence solutions provide an in-depth look at target hosts and are an essential addition to any threat detection toolkit.

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