FBI warns about attacks that bypass multi-factor authentication (MFA)

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The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has sent last month a security advisory to private industry partners about the rising threat of attacks against organizations and their employees that can bypass multi-factor authentication (MFA) solutions.

“The FBI has observed cyber actors circumventing multi-factor authentication through common social engineering and technical attacks,” the FBI wrote in a Private Industry Notification (PIN) sent out on September 17.

Past incidents of MFA bypasses

While nowadays there are multiple ways of bypassing MFA protections, the FBI alert specifically warned about SIM swapping, vulnerabilities in online pages handling MFA operations, and the use of transparent proxies like Muraen and NecroBrowser.

To get the point across, the FBI listed recent incidents where hackers had used these techniques to bypass MFA and steal money from companies and regular users alike. We cite from the report:

In 2016 customers of a US banking institution were targeted by a cyber attacker who ported their phone numbers to a phone he owned-an attack called SIM swapping. The attacker called the phone companies’ customer service representatives, finding some who were more willing to provide him information to complete the SIM swap. Once the attacker had control over the customers’ phone numbers, he called the bank to request a wire transfer from the victims’ accounts to another account he owned. The bank, recognizing the phone number as belonging to the customer, did not ask for full security questions but requested a one-time code sent to the phone…

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