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Fake EV certificates used in Steam trade phishing attacks

An extremely convincing phishing attack that impersonates a multi-game skin trade bot appears to be using a fake Extended Validation TLS certificate to steal Steam accounts.

A fake Extended Validation certificate indicator.

The phishing site displaying a fake Extended Validation certificate indicator.

The ongoing phishing attack impersonates TradeIt.gg, which facilitates the trading of skins, weapons and other in-game commodities within popular games like CS:GO, TF2 and DOTA.

When a victim attempts to sign in through Steam to view their inventory on the spoof trading site, Steam's OpenID login form opens in a new window, clearly displaying its use of an Extended Validation certificate issued to Valve Corp...

iframe

... or does it?

Extended Validation (EV) certificates offer the highest level of assurance that a website is being operated by a bona fide legal entity, which is why phishers like to make use of them whenever they can. EV certificates typically cost more than both domain and organisation validated certificates, as the issuance process involves a more stringent vetting process.

However, in this case, the fraudster has bypassed all of the expenses and vetting requirements by simply presenting a fake — yet very convincing — EV certificate indicator next to the address bar.

Closer inspection reveals that the Steam login page is also a spoof form, and it is not actually being displayed in a new browser window at all – it is being shown in an interactive, movable iframe that behaves like a window, allowing the fraudster to dress the "window" up however he likes. The tell-tale feature to look out for here is that the fake window cannot be maximized or moved beyond the boundaries of the spoof trading website.

Needless to say, when a victim submits their Steam credentials into this fake window, they will be stolen by a PHP script on the phishing site. The phisher can then monetize the compromised Steam account by selling it directly or by trading the victim's valuable in-game commodities.

Fraudsters have a long history of exploiting user interface redressing vulnerabilities to make better phishing attacks. More than 14 years ago, Netcraft's anti-phishing toolbar community discovered a particularly fiendish set of examples that exploited a vulnerability in Microsoft Internet Explorer, which allowed part of the webpage to be placed on top of the browser's own address bar.

An extremely convincing PayPal phishing attack that took place back in 2005. A bug in IE made it possible for page elements to be placed outside of the browser's viewport, allowing the attacker to place a fake paypal.com address on top of the browser's real address bar, thus hiding the true location of the fraudulent website.

An extremely convincing PayPal phishing attack that took place back in 2005. A bug in IE made it possible for page elements to be placed outside of the browser's viewport, allowing the attacker to place a fake paypal.com address on top of the browser's real address bar, thus hiding the true location of the fraudulent website.

There are often resurgences in these types of attack, but the certificate and address spoofing techniques are usually forced to change as browser security improves and becomes more restrictive. No doubt there will be more attacks like these in the future, as phishing site developers continue to evolve new tricks.

Netcraft has been protecting consumers against phishing attacks for 15 years. You can enjoy the best protection against the latest attacks, including this Steam trading attack, by installing the desktop Netcraft Extension and Netcraft app for Android.