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cPanel 'Account Verification' Phishing Scam

Outline
Email purporting to be from website hosting control system cPanel claims that recipients must click a link to login and re-confirm their accounts.

Protect your Email and Password

© Depositphotos.com/ sangoiri



Brief Analysis
The email is not from cPanel or the user's web hosting provider. It is a phishing scam designed to trick website owners into allowing criminals to take control of their websites. The criminals can then use the hijacked websites to host scam webpages and launch further spam campaigns.

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Example

Subject: Your cPanel Account Verification

Dear client,

Our Technical Services Department are carrying out a planned software upgrade. Please login to re-confirm your account.
To login, please click the link below:

login.cPanel.net

This instruction has been sent to all our customers and is obligatory to follow.

Thank you,

Customers Support Service.


Detailed Analysis


Most website owners and managers will be familiar with the web hosting control system cPanel. cPanel allows users to quickly and easily manage all aspects of their websites via an easy-to-use graphical interface.

Because of its powerful site management capabilities, gaining access to a site's cPanel is a desirable goal for online criminals.

The phishing email above is just one of many attempts, both crude and sophisticated, to get site owners to part with their cPanel login details. The message claims that, due to a 'planned software upgrade', users must login to cPanel to re-confirm their accounts.

Clicking the login link in the message opens a fake web page that asks users to login using the familiar cPanel login dialogue box. After supplying their details and clicking the 'log in' button, users will receive a message advising that they have successfully confirmed their accounts.

Alas, their login details will then be collected by criminals and used to hijack their websites. The criminals can use the hijacked accounts to set up bogus web pages that can be used in further phishing and malware campaigns. They can also access the site's email accounts and use them to send spam and scam messages in the site's name. In fact, the scammers can gain complete control of the site and use it for a variety of fraudulent purposes.

Of course, many, if not most, site owners and managers would be savvy enough to quickly recognize the email as fake. But, as site ownership and management has become more accessible, there is likely to be at least a few less experienced users who fall for the ruse. A hijacked site is a valuable commodity to criminals, so the scam will prove worthwhile for the scammers even if only a few people fall for it.

A hosting company, or the providers of cPanel, are very unlikely to send out an unsolicited email asking users to upgrade or verify their accounts by clicking a link. If you receive such an email, do not click any links or open any attachments that it contains.

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Last updated: February 6, 2014
First published: February 6, 2014
By Brett M. Christensen
About Hoax-Slayer

References
Phishing Scams - Anti-Phishing Information





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