The FBI is warning online users that websites with addresses that start with “https” are not always secure. Although, the https and the lock icon were developed to protect privacy and ensure security to visitors, cyber criminals are exploiting these safeguard icons for their own malicious purposes.
The “s” stands for “secure” in HTTPS: Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. In fact, cybersecurity training has focused on encouraging people to look for the lock icon that appears in the web browser address bar on these secure sites, the FBI said. The presence of “https” and the lock icon are supposed to indicate the web traffic is encrypted and that visitors can share data safely. Unfortunately, cyber criminals are betting on the public’s trust of “https” and the lock icon. They are frequently incorporating website certificates — third-party verification that a site is secure — when they send potential victims emails that imitate trustworthy companies or email contacts. These phishing schemes are used to acquire sensitive logins or other information by luring victims to a malicious website that looks secure, the FBI reported.
The following steps can help reduce the likelihood of falling victim to HTTPS phishing:
- Do not simply trust the name on an email: question the intent of the email content.
- If you receive a suspicious email with a link from a known contact, confirm the email is legitimate by calling or emailing the contact; do not reply directly to a suspicious email.
- Check for misspellings or suspicious domains within a link, for example, if an address that should end in “.gov” ends in “.com” instead.
- Do not trust a website just because it has a lock icon or “https” in the browser address bar.
The FBI encourages victims to report information concerning suspicious or criminal activity to their local FBI field office, and file a complaint with the IC3 at www.ic3.gov. If your complaint pertains to this particular scheme, please note “HTTPS phishing” in the body of the complaint.