Researcher shows how hackers can bypass Two-factor authentication

A majority of users and companies are moving to Two-factor authentication (2FA) for enhancing the security of its data and systems. But contrary to popular belief, it cannot provide a fool-proof layer of security to online accounts since Kevin Mitnick at KnowBe4 has demonstrated that it is very easy to deceive this defensive measure.

KnowBe4 is the world’s leading security awareness training provider and simulated phishing firm with a massive customer base of 17,000 organizations across the world. Mitnick is the company’s chief hacking officer.

In his new exploit, he proved that 2FA is exploitable because hackers can spoof the 2FA requests by sending a fake login page to the user. This may lead to stealing of sensitive user data including username, password and session cookie.

The hacking technique can be seen in the video uploaded here:

The purpose of using 2FA is to add an extra layer of security by combining what an employee already has and what they know. This combination could be between username and password or a code that is sent to the user on the phone or an app.

To exploit the 2FA method of security, the victim is lured into visiting a typo-squatting domain such as LunkedIn.com in order to steal the required user data. Once the information is obtained, the hacker can easily access the actual website and capture session cookie. Once this is achieved, the hacker can remain logged in indefinitely. But this is reliant on accessing the 2FA authentication code once.

As per the CEO of KnowBe4Stu Sjouwerman, Kuba Gretzy, a white hat hacker, and friend of Mitnick, developed a tool for bypassing the 2FA authentication via social engineering techniques and this tool can be “weaponized” for just about any website.

“Two-factor authentication is intended to be an extra layer of security, but in this instance, we clearly see that you can’t rely on it alone to protect your organization,” added Sjouwerman.

The tool is called evilginx. The attack method is based upon proxying the user via the hacker’s system through a credentials phishing technique, which requires the use of a typo-squatting domain. The idea is to let the user give away his/her credentials so that the hacker could steal session cookie.

The phishing email is the core of the attack method. In this particular case, the phishing email is supposedly sent by LinkedIn to a member of the site indicating that somebody is trying to contact through the social network. The email looks authentic initially but if looked closely, it becomes evident that it is a fake email since the return address is incorrect. But, if the user falls for it and clicks on the “interested” button, the malware will soon be downloaded onto the device.

This is the stage when the victim is taken to the authentic LinkedIn website so as to enter login information, which the hacker required. The login information is recorded by the malware as well as the session cookie using the cookie, the attacker acquires direct access to the account and manages to avoid the 2FA phase of the signing-in process.

Watch the demonstration here:

Image credit: Depositphotos

Uzair Amir

I am an Electronic Engineer, an Android Game Developer and a Tech writer. I am into music, snooker and my life motto is 'Do my best, so that I can't blame myself for anything.'