At FireEye Labs we have an automated system designed to proactively
detect newly registered malicious domains. This system observed some
phishing domains registered in the first quarter of 2016 that were
designed to appear as legitimate Apple domains. These phony Apple
domains were involved in phishing attacks against Apple iCloud users
in China and UK. In the past we have observed several phishing domains
targeting Apple, Google and Yahoo users; however,
these campaigns are unique as they are serving the same malicious
phishing content from different domains to target Apple users.
Since January 2016 we have observed several phishing campaigns
targeting the Apple IDs and passwords of Apple users. Apple provides
all of its customers with an Apple ID, a centralized personal account
that gives access to iCloud and other Apple features and services such
as the iTunes Store and App Store. Users will provide their Apple ID
to sign in to iCloud[.]com, and use the same Apple ID to set up iCloud
on their iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Mac, or Windows computer.
iCloud ensures that users always have the latest versions of their
important information – including documents, photos, notes, and
contacts – on all of their Apple devices. iCloud provides an easy
interface to share photos, calendars, locations and more with friends
and family, and even helps users find their device if they lose it.
Perhaps most importantly, its iCloud Keychain feature allows user to
passwords and credit card information and have it entered
automatically on their iOS devices and Mac computers.
Anyone with access to an Apple ID, password and some additional
information, such as date of birth and device screen lock code, can
completely take over the device and use the credit card information to
impersonate the user and make purchases via the Apple Store.
This blog highlights some highly organized and sophisticated
phishing attack campaigns we observed targeting Apple customers.
Campaign 1: Zycode phishing campaign targeting Apple’s Chinese
This phishing kit is named “zycode” after the value of a password
in their HTTP responses.
The following is a list of phishing domains targeting Apple users
detected by our automated system in March 2016. None of these domains
are registered by Apple, nor are they pointing to Apple infrastructure:
The list shows that the attackers are attempting to mimic websites
related to iTunes, iCloud and Apple ID, which are designed to lure and
trick victims into submitting their Apple IDs.
Most of these domains appeared as an Apple login interface for Apple
ID, iTunes and iCloud. The domains were serving highly sophisticated,
HTML content on the web page. This technique is effective against
anti-phishing systems that rely on the HTML content and analyze the forms.
From March 7 to March 12, the following domains used for Apple ID
phishing were observed, all of which were registered by a few entities
in China using a qq[.]com email address: iCloud-Apple-apleid[.]com,
Appleid-xyw[.]com, itnues-appid[.]com, AppleidApplecwy[.]com,
appie-itnues[.]com, AppleidApplecwy[.]com, Appleid-xyw[.]com,
From March 13 to March 20, we observed these new domains using the
exact same phishing content, and having similar registrants:
iCloud-Appleid-yun[.]win, iClouddd[.]top, iCloudee[.]top,
iCloud-findip[.]com, iCloudhh[.]top, ioslock-Apple[.]com,
ioslock-iphone[.]com, iphone-iosl0ck[.]com, lcloudmid[.]com
On March 30, we observed the following newly registered domains
serving this same content: iCloud-mail-Apple[.]com,
AppleidAppleiph[.]com , icluod-web-ios[.]com and ios-web-Apple[.]com
Phishing Content and Analysis
Phishing content is usually available in the form of simple HTML,
referring to images that mimic a target brand and a form to collect
user credentials. Phishing detection systems look for special features
within the HTML content of the page, which are used to develop
detection heuristics. This campaign is unique as a simple GET request
the response, which does not reveal its true intention unless executed
following is a brief portion of the encoded string taken from the code.
This encoded string strHTML goes through a complex sequence of
around 23 decrypting/decoding functions that include number system
conversions, pseudo-random pattern modifiers followed by XOR decoding
using a fixed key or password “zycode” for the actual HTML phishing
content to be finally created (refer to Figure 15 and Figure 16 in
Appendix 1 for complete code). Phishing detection systems that rely
solely on the HTML in the response section will completely fail to
detect the code generated using this technique.
an iCloud phishing page. This page is shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: The page created by the obfuscated
The page is created by the de-obfuscated content seen in Figure 2.
Figure 2: Deobfuscated content
Burp Suite is a tool to secure and penetrate web applications:
https://portswigger[.]net/burp/. The Burp session of a user supplying
login and password to the HTML form is shown in Figure 3. Here we can
see 5 variables (u,p,x,y and cc) and a cookie being sent via HTTP POST
method to the page save.php.
Figure 3: Burp session
After the user enters a login and password, they are redirected and
presented with the following Chinese Apple page, seen in Figure 4: http://iClouddd[.]top/ask2.asp?MNWTK=25077126670584.html
Figure 4: Phishing page
On this page, all the links correctly point towards Apple[.]com, as
can be seen in the HTML:
* Apple <http://www.Apple[.]com/cn/>
Apple ID <https://Appleid.Apple[.]com/account/home>
When translated using Google Translate, the Chinese text written in
the middle of the page (Figure 4) reads: “Verify your birth date or
your device screen lock to continue”.
Next the user was presented with an
ask3.asp webpage shown in Figure 5.
Figure 5: Phishing form asking for more details
Translation: “Please verify your security question”
As shown in Figure 5, the page asks the user to answer three
security questions, followed by redirection to an
ok.asp page (Figure 6) on the same domain:
Figure 6: Successful submission phishing page
The final link points back to Apple[.]com. The complete trail using
Burp suite tool is shown in Figure 7.
Figure 7: Burp session
We noticed that if the user tried to supply the
same Apple ID twice, they got redirected to the page
save[.]asp shown in Figure 8. Clicking OK on the popup
redirected the user back to the main page.
Figure 8: Error prompt generated by phishing page
Domain Registration Information
We found that the registrant names for all of these phony Apple
domains were these Chinese names: “Yu Hu” and “Wu Yan”, “Yu Fei”
and “Yu Zhe”. Moreover, all these domains were registered
with qq[.].com email addresses. Details are available in Table
Table 1: Domain registration information
Looking closer at our malicious domain detection system, we observed
that the system had been seeing similar domains at an increasing
frequency. Analyzing the registration information, we found some
interesting patterns. Since January 2016 to the time of writing, the
system marked around 240 unique domains that have something to do with
Apple ID, iCloud or iTunes. From these
240 domains, we identified
154 unique email registrants with 64 unique emails
pointing to qq[.]com, 36 unique Gmail email accounts, and 18 unique
email addresses each belonging to 163[.]com and 126[.]com, and a
couple more registered with 139[.]com.
This information is vital, as it could be used in following
- The domain list provided here could be used by Apple customers
as a blacklist; they can avoid browsing to such domains and
providing credentials to any of the listed domains, whether they
receive them via SMS, email or via any instant messaging
- The Apple credential phishing detection teams could
use this information, as it highlights that all domains registered
with these email addresses, registrant names and addresses, as well
as their combinations, are potentially malicious and serving
phishing content. This information could be used to block all future
domains registered by the same entities.
- Patterns emerging
from this data reveal that for such campaigns, attackers prefer to
use email addresses from Chinese services such as qq.com, 126.com
and 138.com. It has also been observed that instead of names, the
attackers have used numbers (such as 545454@qq[.]com and
891495200@qq[.]com) in their email addresses.
As seen in Figure 9, we observed all of these domains pointing to 13
unique IP addresses distributed across the U.S. and China, suggesting
that these attacks were perhaps targeting users from these
Figure 9: Geo-location plot of the IPs for this campaign
Campaign 2: British Apples Gone Bad
Our email attacks research team unearthed another targeted phishing
campaign against Apple users in the UK. Table 2 is a list of 86 Apple
phishing domains that we observed since January 2016.
Figure 9: Geo-location plot of the IPs for this campaign
Phishing Content and Analysis
All of these domains have been serving the same phishing content. A
simple HTTP GET (via the wget utility) to the domain’s main page
reveals HTML code containing a meta-refresh redirection to the
A wget session is shown here:
Connecting to manageAppleid84913[.]net
HTTP request sent, awaiting response… 200
Length: 203 [text/html]
100%[============================================================================================================>] 203 –.-K/s in 0s
Content of the page is displayed here:
This code redirects the browser to this URL/page:
on execution, generates the phishing HTML code at runtime to evade
signature-based phishing detection systems. This is seen in Figure 17
in Appendix 2, with a deobfuscated version of the HTML code being
shown in Figure 18.
This code renders in the browser to create the fake Apple ID
phishing webpage seen in Figure 10, which resembles the authentic
Apple page https://Appleid.Apple[.]com/.
Figure 10: Screenshot of the phishing page as
seen by the victims in the browser
On submitting a fake username and password, the form gets submitted
creates the page seen in Figure 11, informing the user that the Apple
ID provided has been locked and the user must unlock it:
Figure 11: Phishing page suggesting victims to
unlock their Apple IDs
, which requests personal information such as name, date of birth,
telephone numbers, addresses, credit card details and security
questions, as shown in Figure 12. While filling out this form, we
observed that the country part of the address drop-down menu only
allowed address options from England, Scotland and Wales, suggesting
that this attack is targeting these regions onlyClicking on unlock
leads the user to the page profile.php
Figure 12: User information requested by
On submitting false information on this form, the user would get a
page asking to wait while the entered information is confirmed or
verified. After a couple of seconds of processing, the page
congratulates the user that their Apple ID was successfully unlocked
(Figure 13). As seen in Figure 14, the user is then redirected to the
authentic Apple page at https://Appleid.Apple[.]com/.
Figure 13: Account verification page displayed
by the phishing site
Figure 14: After a successful attack, victims
are redirected to the real apple login page
Domain Registration Information
It was observed that all of these domains used the whois privacy
protection feature offered by many registrars. This feature enables
the registrants to hide their personal and contact information which
otherwise is available via the whois service. These domains were
registered with the email “contact@privacyprotect[.]org”
All these domains (Table 2) were pointing to IPs in the UK,
suggesting that they were hosted in the UK.
Cybercriminals are targeting Apple users by launching phishing
campaigns focused on stealing Apple IDs, as well as personal,
financial and other information. We witnessed a high frequency of
these targeted phishing attacks in the first quarter of 2016. A few
phishing campaigns were particularly interesting because of their
sophisticated evasion techniques (using code encoding and
obfuscation), geographical targets, and because the same content was
being served across multiple domains, which indicates the same
phishing kits were being used.
One campaign we detected in March used sophisticated
encoding/encryption techniques to evade phishing detection systems and
provided a realistic looking Apple/iCloud interface. The majority of
these domains were registered by individuals having email addresses
pointing to Chinese services – registrant email, contact and address
information points to China. Additionally, the domains were serving
phony Apple webpages in Chinese, indicating that they were targeting
The second campaign we detected was launched against Apple users in
the UK. This campaign used sophisticated evasion techniques (such as
code obfuscation) to evade phishing detection systems and, whenever
successful, was able to collect Apple IDs and personal and credit card
information from its victims.
Organizations could use the information provided in this blog to
protect their users from such sophisticated phishing campaigns by
writing signatures for their phishing detection and prevention systems.
Credits and Acknowledgements
Special thanks to Yichong Lin, Jimmy Su, Mary Grace and Gaurav Dalal
for their support.
phishing site. In Green we have highlighted functions with: number
system converters, pseudo-random pattern decoders, bit level binary operas
Figure 16: Obfuscated JS served by the phishing
site. In Green we have highlighted functions with: number system
converters, pseudo-random pattern decoders, bit level binary
operaters. While in Red we have: XOR decoders.
by the site
Figure 18: Deobfuscated HTML content
For more information on phishing, please visit:
This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog post authored by Nick Harbour. Read the original post at: Threat Research Blog