Phishing examples

What is a malicious URL?

The potential risk of a malicious URL and the harm in which they inflict is massive in today’s digital world. So what what is a malicious URL? This article explores variances of email borne threats and explains how payloads are delivered.

How do we define a malicious URL?

Quite simply, a malicious URL is a clickable link embedded within the content of an email. It is created with the sole purpose of compromising the recipient of that email. By clicking on an infected malicious URL, you may download malware or a Trojan that can open back doors to your devices, or you can be persuaded to provide sensitive information on a fake website such as Office 365 credentials.

The most common email scams with malicious URLs involve the delivery of targeted spam and phishing. Phishing is a type of email fraud used by cybercriminals who try to deceive victims by impersonating well-known and trusted organizations or individuals. Malicious links may also be hidden in supposedly safe download links and may spread quickly through the sharing of files and messages in sharing networks.

A common payload delivery method used by sophisticated organized email fraudsters is a spoofed email address. This would be an email sent to the recipient disguised as a trusted sender, maybe even an internal employee. Email spoofing has evolved not to only build trust with the recipient of the email but to also circumnavigate email security services that do not have multi-layered levels of protection (such as Office 365). In most cases businesses will need to adopt greater levels of email protection in 2020.

It is important to note that websites can also be compromised, which can lead users to click on malicious URLs online and provide sensitive information directly to fraudsters.

Detecting Malicious URLs

There are several services offering URL Defense and ways to detect and manage malicious URLs. In the case of email networks, for example, you could add an additional layer of perimeter defence in the cloud with a SaaS Secure Email Gateway. In the case of browsers, you can install protection plugins or a more robust Web Gateway.

The most effective and common protection techniques are based on filters that use URL blacklists, comparing domains and hosts. Other techniques involve machine learning, URL rewriting, Sandboxing and real-time click detection as provided by Spambrella.

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