Phishing activities are becoming a flop with growing Artificial Intelligence powered phishing detection technologies. Email services and web security scanners use these anti phishing mechanisms to detect malicious emails. One such attempt is implemented by Microsoft in their Office 365 version to safeguard users from harmful emails and links. In Microsoft Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection (ATP), a cloud based email filtering service is used to protect users and their organizations against malware and viruses.
Like Microsoft Office 365, many emails and web security services are based on natural language processing and to identify malicious or phishing emails faster.
However cyber criminals can’t take a back seat! Recent news reveals that email scammers and cyber crooks have come up with a new technique that would allow their phishing emails to bypass the protection implemented by Microsoft in office 365. This new technique evolved by maleficent developers involves manipulating font sizes to Zerofont.
Dubbed ZeroFont, is a technique that involves inserting hidden characters with the font size zero between the indicator texts to make it invisible to the naked eyes, thus tricking the Microsoft’s Office 365 platform that can process only natural language.
These inserted hidden characters are embedded within the HTML code <span style=”FONT-SIZE: 0px”> to make the font size zero, making them invisible to the email recipient.
While human eye cannot decipher zero-width characters, the hidden characters are visible to email security software who read seemingly random string of characters.
However Microsoft cannot identify such emails as spoofs. The reason being according to the guidelines, if words such as “Apple” or “Microsoft” are included in the mail sent from unverified sources can only be labeled as malicious. As the word ‘Microsoft’ is rewritten to some unstructured text in the phishing emails using Zero font characters which is invisible to human eyes, it cannot be identified as a phishing email.
Users need to be careful of such email scams. These emails are masqueraded as legitimate mails from established companies and phrases request for payments or password resets and more. The entered credentials are stolen by cybercriminals who earn profit either by selling the sensitive information to the third party or extort the victim.
The hidden characters in such emails may also contain a script, to infect the boot sector of floppy disk or Master Boot record (MBR) of hard disks.
The detection of the hidden zero font characters is impossible for a human eye, however inspecting for telltale signs of phishing such as grammatical errors or certain characters can prevent user system from malware invasion.
Regularly updating the credentials goes a long way.
Be cautious of the unsolicited emails that demand unnecessary urgency.
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