Global and regional threat actors targeting online travel and hospitality customers

Global and regional threat actors targeting online travel and hospitality customers

Check Point Research puts a spotlight on the hospitality industry with an underground market for selling flight points, hotel rewards and stolen credentials of airline accounts.  

Check Point Research reveals a growing industry selling credentials to stolen hotel and airline accounts. The end goal is to get access to accounts with reward points and sell it. Check Point Research provides examples including dedicated brute forcing tool used to steal accounts, stolen credentials on sale and travel agents selling discounted flights retrieved using stolen airline and hotel accounts.

With airline prices skyrocketing these days, amidst the global inflation, people are always seeking last minute sales, special offers and will usually be tempted to follow any lucrative offer that will decrease the heavy prices we all need to pay towards our next vacation.

It seems that hackers and cybercriminals leverage this, as always, in their quest to maximise profits and leverage a need that requires a resolution.

In this report, Check Point Research turns a spotlight into what seems like a growing phenomenon, in which cybercriminals are offering a variety of deals for those who seek to cut back on their expenses, while trying to get to their vacation’s destination.

Reward points that are not your own

Our researchers present examples to what seems to be a growing market on alternative pathways in which threat actors and cybercriminals offer their goods, using stolen credentials to airline and hotel personal accounts, or accumulated rewards that can be used to buy tickets or hotel nights.

One method cybercriminals use is offering stolen credentials of hotel and airline accounts that have accumulated reward or flight points. These stolen credentials are offered for free or for sale on hacking Darknet forums. Examples of such accounts include hotels like Marriott, Delta, and AA. Cybercriminals also use a dedicated brute forcing tool to steal accounts from Radisson Hotel with the end goal of accessing accounts with reward points or linked payment cards.

Another tactic is the creation of travel agencies in Russian hacking underground markets. These agencies offer flight tickets and hotel bookings at 45-50% discounted prices. However, these deals are ordered using stolen accounts from hotels, airlines, and other travel-related websites.

We also present examples of phishing, Vietnam Airlines and malspam, SouthWest examples impersonating airlines. In the graphic, you can see that the market platform offers tickets of leading global airlines.

Stolen accounts with reward and flight points

Here we show what is being offered, when requesting to purchase accounts which includes points in them. As the screenshot shows, an American Airlines account holding 1,500,000+ points are sold for $435.

Specifically interested in Radisson account rewards Don’t worry, these guys will sell you the tool to brute force any account and get its captured points! A brute force tool is a type of software or program used to crack or guess a password or encryption key by attempting every possible combination of characters until the correct one is found. Brute force tools are often used by hackers to gain unauthorised access to computer systems, networks, and online accounts.

Travel agents selling reduced prices tickets

Patriarch service is offering buyers 45-50% reduced prices off an original booking that can be found on legitimate booking outlets around the net. These reduced prices are received using stolen accounts of airlines and hotels obtained by the operating cybercriminals who offer these services.

The advertisement which appears on the Darknet, originally in Russian, here also translated to English by Check Point Research offering tickets for worldwide destinations, except Russia and has a minimal order of $325.

Phishing a better deal

Phishing scams remain a major technique used by cybercriminals to lure users to provide their details, financial details preferable, and by that, steal funds and generate fraudulent transactions.

In this, travel scams are not exceptional and in this report we provide examples of two cases where cybercriminals impersonate legitimate firms to lure their victims.

In this case, we see a phishing website for the Vietnam Airline website. It offers deals and information, inviting buyers to book trips. This was presented under a lookalike domain https://vietnam-airline\.org

Phishing Vietnam Airlines website

In our second example we show a malspam campaign sent to victims claiming they won a reward in the name of SouthWest Airline company, similar campaigns seen in other airlines companies as well.

The mail was sent from different senders, with name headers such as SouthWest Airlines Feedback or You’re Approved.

Protecting from online travel scams

Wary of deals too good

Scammers often use enticing deals to lure in unsuspecting travellers. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Nobody will sell you a 50% off ticket price

Secure payment methods

When booking a trip online, use a secure payment method such as a credit card or PayPal. These methods offer protection against fraudulent charges and make it easier to dispute any unauthorised transactions.

Check for HTTPS

When making any online transaction, including booking a trip, make sure the website has HTTPS in the URL. This indicates that the website has an SSL certificate, which means the data you enter is encrypted and secure.

Prior to booking with a company online, make sure you know who you are buying from. Check its website, accumulate others’ reviews and research if someone has heard of this company before

Check web addresses

Another easy way to identify potential phishing attacks is to look for mismatched email addresses, links, and domain names. Recipients should always hover over a link in an email before clicking it, to see the actual link destination. If the email is believed to be sent by American Airlines, but the domain of the email address does not contain, that is a sign of a phishing email.

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