What is Pharming – How It Can Trick You Without Your Notice
By Nick Anderson 5 minutes
Security on the internet is not a luxury, but something you, as a user, must always strive for. We use our blog to educate you on security and privacy and how you can protect yourself online. Various vulnerabilities exist; there are several ways through which attackers can target you.
Some techniques are more dangerous than others, which brings us to Pharming. As we’ll explain in our blog, Pharming is especially dangerous because it evades us. A little recap on how the internet works are in order to get a good grip on this attack fully.
What is a DNS Server?
The internet is a vast network of computers. These computers are either clients or servers (also known as hosts). The servers host websites that clients interact with. All devices on the internet have an IP address that serves as a unique identifier. Your device has an IP address, and this blog has an IP address; the two establish a connection with each other knowing this 32-bit (IPV4) or 128-bit (IPV6) address.
But memorizing a string of numbers, and especially for dozens of websites, lands us inconvenience. Hence, we invoke addresses through alphanumeric names, such as fastestvpn.com, instead of its underlying IP address.
With so many websites and the corresponding IP addresses, the need for DNS servers arose. DNS servers are phonebooks of the internet that include addresses of websites.
Whenever you make a request to visit fastestvpn.com, the request travels through your ISP’s server that then uses a DNS server to look up the address and fetches the relevant webpage back to you.
What is a Pharming Attack?
In a Pharming attack, the attacker infiltrates a DNS server to route requests to a different destination. The attacker can take you to any website it wishes in order to carry out malicious intent. If you wanted to visit Facebook, it could route you to a different website to display ads or lure you into downloading a malicious file.
What’s even more frantic is the fact that the attacker can show you fake login pages. So instead of returning the real Facebook, you could be shown a forged Facebook page. The login fields will act as a proxy for the attacker to gain your credentials. Now replace Facebook with your bank’s online login page, and we can see what makes it so dangerous.
Pharming succeeds because it evades our attention. Common phishing attempts try to lure you into clicking on URLs or downloading a program, whereas Pharming diverts unsuspecting users to fraudulent or malicious web pages. It’s like someone changing contact detail in your phone without your notice so that you end up connecting to someone else when you dial.
It’s like Phishing but not quite like it at the same time. It’s easy to spot a phishing attempt, but someone in a hurry may not double-check the URL that’s returned, thus leading to a successful Pharming attack.
Can Malware Cause Pharming Attack?
In addition to DNS poisoning, a malicious program on your computer can alter proper functionality. By modifying the host files that sit securely in your Operating System, the attacker can divert you to a different website whenever your web browser generates a request.
So, there are two ways Pharming can be carried out: one is by poisoning DNS servers, and the other is by infecting the client’s system. We talked about how Pharming can evade notice. It’s because you are unlikely to become suspicious of a URL that you type.
How to Prevent Pharming Attack
Now that you know of another exploit that exists, it’s time to prepare yourself. Follow these steps for protection against Pharming:
- Don’t click on links or files from unknown sources. You could become a victim, or your computer may get infected with malware.
- Identify phishing emails by checking where the email came from. Phishing techniques – especially Spear Phishing – include messages and social engineering to convince you of their legitimacy. Phishers can be identified by checking the email address.
- If you never requested a password reset, don’t pay attention to a reset email. Banks will not email you to notify you that your account has been temporarily disabled. Never share your personal information that way.
- Check the URL before entering any information, such as login credentials. Fake websites will have a different name even if it’s different by just a single character. Try spotting for any spelling mistakes in the name.
- Always use HTTPS websites. Check the padlock icon in the URL bar of your web browser. The icon shows secure and encrypted communication status with the website. Some malicious websites may not have HTTPS enabled.
- Listen to your browser when it detects a possible malicious website.
- Install a capable Anti-Virus program. It can scan webpages, links, emails, and attachments for any malicious content.
- Use a VPN. Like your ISP, FastestVPN uses its DNS servers to process your requests. Moreover, internet communication is always secured with AES 256-bit encryption.
The steps explained don’t just serve as protection against Pharming but also readies you for a safe web browsing experience. Public or Free Wi-Fi networks are most vulnerable to attacks, and a VPN can keep your data safe by encryption communication.