This blog is taken from our recent Domain Monitoring Solutions Guide, which provides best practices and free tools to begin monitoring for impersonating domains.

Impersonating domains pose a high risk to your organization by leveraging your company name, often to defraud customers and employees or to harvest credentials. In the previous two blogs, I covered how security teams can collect, and then detect impersonating domains via various typo and combosquatting techniques. In this third (and final) blog in the series, we’ll outline how you can effectively respond and remediate these high risk domains. 

1. Takedown the domain

The first, and most obvious, next step is to get the domain taken down. Although this may sound straightforward, there are several complexities:

Different domain hosting providers, different levels of compliance.

The most reputable domain registrars respond to domain takedown requests or takedown offending domains in a matter of hours. However, not all registrars act so quickly, Many domain registrars take days to chase down, make contact with, and ensure a takedown is successfully completed. Furthermore, criminal support services limit this even further; Photon have been writing about bulletproof hosting and other support services since 2016. Although not all hosting providers have nefarious goals, it’s understandable some can be less responsive than others to takedown requests. 

Evidence, evidence, evidence. 

The biggest success factor in taking down domains is having the right evidence. This includes:

  1. A live URL to the content 
  2. Copies of emails that have been sent out, directing people to the content 
  3. Trademark details 
  4. Details of fraudulent behaviour 
  5. An HTML phishing attachment/form 
  6. A malicious IP address or a copy of a malicious DNS server 
  7. A copy of malware used to enable a pharming IP

It can be a tedious, manual process gathering all the information needed for a DMCA takedown or phishing URL takedown request but worthwhile— the back-and-forth process of requesting missing evidence by the hosting provider can increase time to remediation by days, and sometimes even weeks.

You’ve reached us outside of working hours…

Geographic constraints such as timezones, differing cultural ideals on response times, and public holidays can throw a wrench into remediating an offensive domain. For example, attempting to takedown a domain registered to a Chinese registrar over the Chinese New Year period. In this instance, the takedown request is likely to experience delays.

Requesting and chasing up these takedown requests can be one of the most painful parts of a brand protection program, which is why most security teams outsource this capability. You can read more about Digital Shadows Managed Takedown capabilities here

2. Block the domain

Blocking the domain at available Internet and email gateway(s) will prevent users browsing to the domain or receiving email from the domain. This can successfully prevent your own employees from being phished as part of Business Email Compromise campaigns.

To broaden the remediation to non-employees, you should also consider sending the domain to Google Safebrowsing and Microsoft SmartScreen.

For those in the United States, you can also email US-CERT, who partner with the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) to collect phishing email messages and website locations to help people avoid becoming victims of phishing scams.

3. Investigate & Correlate Related Activity

Another response is to investigate the alert and identify associated activity. After correlating the associated activity with other log sources, you can begin to identify any activity related to the domain and review other alerts related to the registrar or with the DNS data. If there is associated activity. analyze it for potential increased threat. In the case that you find additional domains, you can raise a new incident to manage the remediation of multiple offenders. 

4. Inform Your Customers

As we often say in the security space, awareness is your best frontline of defense! Most phishing pages have been created in an attempt to harvest your customers’ credentials. 

If you identify a campaign targeting a particular theme or current event, you can send out email notifications as forewarning— enabling a more critical eye towards emails and providing customers with increased awareness of these sorts of tactics.

Likewise, if your company and brands are frequently targeted by phishing pages it is great security hygiene to place a phishing knowledge & awareness message on your official log-in page. Many financial services and retail companies such as PayPal and Target have done so in order to prevent their customers falling prey to the thousands of copycat sites that emerge each year.

Automate domain alert triage and takedowns with SearchLight

See the unparalleled, detailed context included in our Impersonating domains and subdomain alerts with 7 days free access here. Get insight into our domain alerts automations which reduce domain alert noise up to 75% through auto-rejection by risk factors such as parking pages, no associated content, and more.

You can additionally get a customized demo of SearchLight, including a view of your organization’s exposure and walkthrough of our templated and managed takedown services.