New spam / phishing campaign on Whatsapp – investigating fake Dominos pizza websites
This week’s focus is an impromptu investigation sparked by another reader submission.
This is the message that one of the readers received today on Whatsapp:
The domain looks deceivingly in order – after all, the real Dominos website in Ireland is www.dominos.ie….
Looks legit, right?
Well, not exactly. To understand what we’re looking at here, a quick explanation on web domain addressing structure is in order.
Every valid Internet domain name is comprised of the following components:
- Top level domain – whatever follows after the last dot in the URL string. Common top level domains examples are: .com, .org, .gov, .net, .uk, .ie… And in this case, it’s .club.
- Second level domain – whatever is before the top level domain. So, the second level domain of this blog is osintme and the top level domain is .com. In our example, the second level domain is ie-pizza (yes, a hyphen is the only special character is allowed by the domain naming convention).
- Subdomain – whatever is positioned before the second level domain. It can be anything really, for example: aws.amazon.com – the aws part is the subdomain here. And in our case, the subdomain is dominos.
Visually it can be very confusing and I would not blame people for believing this could be a real Dominos Pizza website – because at the first glance, it does look real.
A quick check using who.is reveals that the domain was registered only yesterday (21st May 2020).
It was registered using namecheap, a US based hosting company whose services are known to be frequently abused by scammers and cyber criminals.
Visual examination of the domain in a safe virtual machine environment only confirms this is a scam:
I was expecting malicious content so I scanned the website using two very solid malware analysis platforms. The results for both scans are available below:
… and Virus Total:
At the time of the writing, there was no malicious software detected on the site by either of those malware analysis services.
I interacted with the website in several ways but could not identify any functionality that would lead me to believe the site harvested login credentials, financial or personal information.
It was time to dig deeper into the source code.
In previous posts I mentioned the use of the F12 key for investigating websites.
Pressing F12 switches on Web Developer mode on a website you are currently viewing in your browser (known as Developer Tools in both Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge).
Some useful information was gleaned after inspecting the target website:
1. Geoplugin and redirections to other websites
This is a valuable discovery as suddenly we reveal 4 other websites associated with this scam.
Note how the Italian site is the only non-English option out of them all. Perhaps this could indicate the persons behind this scam are Italians? Or Spanish, due to the elements of the Spanish language here and there in the source code (wide speculation, I know).
The scam websites are all direct clones and all but one impersonate Dominos Pizza website – apart from the Indian version served to any user with an Indian IP, which offers a false promise of free Adidas merchandise:
2. Browser user agent scan
When you interact with the fake website, it calls a function to scan your browser user agent.
I have previously talked about user fingerprinting conducted by websites here.
Essentially, the scam website detects if a user is accessing the site from a mobile device and it prompts the Whatsapp mobile app to share the link.
If you access the site via a desktop browser, this will not work.
3. Fake user reviews
You have probably noticed the presence of “user reviews” praising the seemingly legitimate giveaway under the sharing buttons.
They do look fake, but how do they work?
The website is utilising the randomuser.me API to pull in 5 randomly generated users and it pairs them off each with a short made-up review text:
Cookies can be used for tracking and this website has several of those.
I don’t believe in this case they are a huge threat, but it’s always recommended to block cookies.
I personally use the uBlock Origin plugin and it does the job very well.
Concluding thoughts: right now the Dominos scam website appears to only have the spam proliferation functionalities, but this can change as it is very new (only 1 day old during the time of writing).
The scammers can monitor the scale of user interaction with the URL and based on that they can adapt their tactics, ranging from phishing for logins and passwords to deploying malware on users’ phones.
The more people report this scam to the hosting provider, the better the chance we have that namecheap removes and blacklists the scammers.
I would encourage you all to individually email [email protected] and report the site to them.
Remain safe and until the next time.