A phishing campaign emulating the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to target more than 100,000 people world-wide was identified and tracked by CDN (cloud delivery network) and cloud service Akamai.
The campaign, involving 289 domains and 832 URLs, remained active for 47 days, and it started unusually early, in August 2019, according to Akamai.
Phishing campaigns that emulate the IRS usually pop up each year during tax season, which generally lasts from October to January the next year. But the volatile nature of political stress points and often changes to tax law encourage such phishing campaigns to appear all year round.
“By analyzing the activity of the IRS phishing domains, we see the majority of them were active for fewer than 20 days (out of the 47 days that were monitored),” says Akamai. “Yet, a significant number of domains were active even after one month. The lack of maintenance on legacy websites, as well as the challenges of patching and removing injected content, explains the duration over which phishing pages can remain active.”
One issue, as the researchers underlined, is that many of these fake IRS pages are hosted on legitimate domains, which were hacked. Legacy websites that are not maintained are the prime targets for attackers who use these platforms to gain credibility.
As usual, the best protection against phishing campaigns and websites, besides a security solution, is to pay attention to suspicious emails and links. The most important thing Internet users need to know is that neither the IRS nor any other government and private institution will ever ask for personal details or sensitive financial data. Always be wary when such information is requested.