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Phishing attack targets CloudFlare customers

Spoofed emails posed as CloudFlare alerts about account limits being exceeded

By Lucian Constantin, IDG News Service
November 13, 2012 01:40 PM ET

IDG News Service - Customers of the popular CloudFlare website acceleration and security service were targeted in an email attack that directed them to a fake version of the website.

Reports about spoofed CloudFlare emails that contained links to a phishing website were posted Monday on the company's support forum by customers. The rogue messages masqueraded as CloudFlare alerts about account load limits being exceeded.

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CloudFlare improves website performance by caching static content, optimizing Web pages and balancing the load across its global content delivery network. The service can also block comment spam, content scraping, SQL injection, cross-site scripting, distributed denial-of-service and other forms of attacks, depending on what type of account the customer has.

In order to use the service, website owners have to first assign (delegate) their domain names to the company's name servers. CloudFlare offers free accounts and paid accounts with additional features.

Around 785,000 sites are currently configured to use CloudFlare's DNS servers, according to a report released Monday by U.K.-based Internet research and security firm Netcraft.

"While I should have found out that this is a phishing mail (it was sent to my Whois address instead of the my address at Cloudflare), it was late in the evening and I fell for it," a CloudFlare customer said Monday on the company's support forum. "Realized it within a minute, though and changed my password on the real site."

"I got this email also today, and I'm embarrassed to say I fell for it," another customer said. "I had just changed some setting in CloudFlare, so it seemed reasonable that I might have exceeded some limit. My mind was in CloudFlare-mode, so the email reached me just at the wrong time."

"This was a highly targeted attack, as the phishing message mentions the exact domain name that is associated with Cloudflare [for the targeted accounts]," Bogdan Botezatu, a senior e-threat analyst at antivirus vendor Bitdefender, said Tuesday via email.

"It appears the phisher looked up websites that pointed to CloudFlare's IP range and then sent messages to the email addresses on file in the public Whois records," Matthew Prince, CloudFlare's co-founder and CEO, said Tuesday via email. "In other words, the email addresses for the attack were from public sources, not obtained through our systems."

With access to a CloudFlare account, an attacker could redirect the associated websites to an IP address under his control, Botezatu said.

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