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What is Pharming, and How to Protect Against It?

26th Apr, 2024
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    What is Pharming, and How to Protect Against It?

    Pharming Attack is a cyberattack to get unauthorized access to someone's information. It is a technique to redirect users to some malicious website. Pharming combines the words "phishing" and "farming". It is a type of internet scam where sensitive information is taken through manipulating website traffic. It involves creating a fake website and then tricking consumers into visiting it. Living in the digital age means hackers and cyber terrorists have endless opportunities to exploit individuals, government institutions, and even large companies. To prevent such types of attacks, organizations often sponsor Certified Ethical Hacking (CEH) courses for their employees.terrorists have endless opportunities to exploit individuals, government institutions, and even large companies. To prevent such types of attacks, organizations should incorporate Certified Ethical Hacking (CEH) Course for their employees. 

    What is Pharming (Definition)?

    Pharming is a process in which the user gets redirected to some malicious website. Pharming occurs in two subsequent processes: 

    • Installing malicious code on someone's personal computer 
    • Redirecting the user to some malicious website without user consent 

    During this process, users get redirected to some attacker control websites unknowingly, resulting in losing their sensitive and confidential information to attackers and hackers. 

    Pharming Malware: During a Pharming attack, a malicious programme or malicious code is installed on a personal computer (PC) or the server that harms computers and falls under the broad category of malware, sometimes known as Pharming Malware. This pharming Malware or malicious code is sent via email or download link. This code then corrupts the hosting files on your device, silently redirecting you to a phony pharming website created by cyber criminals as they steal your personal information. 

    How Does a Pharming Attack Happen?

    Cybercriminals use pharming attacks to take advantage of DNS servers' weaknesses. An internet address is transformed into an IP address by a DNS server. When a user hits any website name on a search engine, the user reaches the website address browser as a result of it. Hackers reroute the request, which causes you to land on a bogus website (most time controlled by the attacker). Pharming malware or DNS poisoning are two distinct methods for accomplishing this. it. Hackers reroute the request, which causes you to land on a bogus website (most time controlled by the attacker). Pharming malware or DNS poisoning are two distinct methods for accomplishing this.

    Different types of Pharming Attack

    1. Malware-based Pharming

    In Malware based pharming attacks, the malicious code gets installed on the user's machine. It might be downloaded or clicked through a link, like in an email. Each time a user attempts to access a specific website, they will be instantly routed to a bogus website due to the malicious malware installed on the device's local host files.

    The act of clicking a malicious link closely resembles a simple phishing scam. However, rather than infecting the user's device with malware, clicking a link in a phishing email sends users directly to the phishing site. And users would need to click on the malicious link once more to view the false website again. However, when you attempt to access a legitimate website using pharming, the malware automatically sends you to the false one every time. Even if you remove the infection, DNS caching will cause users to keep visiting the bogus/malicious website until the DNS cache is not flushed out.

    2. DNS-based pharming attack through DNS poisoning

    This type of pharming attack occurs at the DNS server level rather than the device level, it is more challenging for the average user to stop it. A DNS server can be tampered with by cybercriminals by utilizing vulnerabilities. Once compromised, the hackers can reroute any traffic going through the server to any alternate addresses they choose, such as phony replicas of real websites.

    There is no need for social engineering to lead the user to the attacker control website, unlike with phishing attacks or malware-based pharming. The victim only needs to think the attacker-controlled website is authentic. Hackers can target thousands of individuals and devices at once with DNS poisoning due to this type of attack being extremely risky. 

    Signs of Pharming

    1. Subtle Changes to a Link or Website: When building a malicious website, attackers occasionally change the URL's letters or use modified visuals. When visiting a well-known website, be aware of errors, modified logos, and unfamiliar colors. This could indicate that the site is a pharming website. 
    2. Unsafe Connection: Pharming websites frequently use "HTTP" in the URL rather than "HTTPS," suggesting that the connection is insecure. You might be on a malicious website if you get an alert message that your connection is not secure or the address bar does not display the green padlock icon. 
    3. Unusual Account or Banking Activity: Pharming is frequently used by attackers to get access to bank accounts and other sensitive data. If you discover illicit activity on your bank or credit card, you might have been the target of a pharming scam. 
    4. Unauthorized Password Changes: There are chances that someone gets hold of your login credentials for an online account, they might change the password to prevent you from logging in. Random password changes are a strong sign that your account has been stolen. 
    5. Unfamiliar Apps or Downloads: It may be a clue for a pharming attack that a hacker has access to your device if an unusual app or software arrives unexpectedly. 

    Action Against Pharming attack or Pharming Malware

    • Usage of antivirus program: Users need to run the antivirus program to get rid of malware that gets installed during the pharming to secure your device 
    • Flush the DNS cache: Clear the DNS cache to stop the pharming attack. A Poisonous DNS server is responsible for redirecting the network traffic to an attacker-controlled website connected to the server. Use ipconfig /flushdns and press enter to clear the DNS flush 
    • Inform your Internet service Provider: If there is a server-level attack, inform your service provider of the malicious activities. 
    • Rotate Credentials: If you feel you are victim of Pharming rotate credentials of all your accounts 
    • Report the incident: If you are a victim of a pharming attack, kindly report the incident to the cyber police 

    How to Prevent Pharming

    1. Use trustworthy and well-reputed websites

    Visit only secured websites because faked websites come with malware too. Check the Url you are visiting has https:// at the beginning of its address and have a valid SSL certificate with a reputed certificate authority.

    2. Never trust links and attachments from unknown sources 

    Never open links received in your email from any unknown resource or senders directly. First, hover over the link and check the domain name, is there any misspelled word present? Avoid opening links and attachments in emails coming from unknown sources. 

    3. Avoid Default setting of Routers

    Few pharming attacks occur at the router level. Hackers make routers their primary target as most users do not change their default credentials while installing the router This makes it easy for a hacker to perform the attackChange the default settings for the home router during the installation time 

    4. Use two-factor authentication

    The end goal of the user is to get juicy information like credentials and Personally identifiable information (PII) information and use them for further attack. However, if 2FA is enabled on the account, the attackers need to enter a one-time code that is received by text or email and sometimes to get logged in, we require fingerprints.  

    5. Regular updates for the software

    Outdated software leaves the network vulnerable to open attacks and provides easy target attackers. Make sure there is regular update self-service available on the system. Whenever you get a prompt to update the software, do it soon instead of procrastinating. 

    6. Usage of Password Manager

    A password manager store generates strong and unique passwords for local applications. It is difficult for hackers to attack and get access to online services. 

    We need to install the best Anti-pharming Software to avoid this from happening in any organization. In order to be aware of these attacks, organizations should also require popular cybersecurity certifications and how to prevent them using this anti-pharming software.

    Top Anti-Pharming Software

    • Norton 360 and Norton Internet Security: It provides real-time threat protection. This software can detect fake websites and block them on a personal computer. This software also warns users about social media malicious and suspicious content and helps the user to safeguard their identity and online transaction from fraud. This software comes with a password manager to generate, store, and manage passwords to keep your information safe and secure 
    • OpenDNS: This tool provides security beyond the firewall. This tool provides a unique way to handle DNS requests by applying multiple levels of validation to all DNS queries. This security validation at DNS queries reduces the pharming and cache poisoning attacks. 
    • Detect Safe Browsing: Whenever a user connects to any website, the Detect Safe verifies whether the website is legitimate or not before users connect to it. This is done by quickly scanning the host's file and processes running on the computer. If some malicious files or process has been detected during the scan, this safe browsing alerts the user. 
    • F-Secure TotalThis tool protects the user's devices from viruses, malware, ransomware, and spyware. devices from viruses, malware, ransomware, and spyware. 

    Top Examples of Pharming Attacks

    1. Global pharming attack

    A massive Pharming attack took place in the year 2007 that targeted more than 50 financial institutions across the world. This pharming attack leverages one of the critical findings present in Microsoft. For each financial institution they chose as a target, hackers produced a fake web page that contained malicious code. The websites compelled users to download a Trojan onto their machines. Any of the targeted financial companies' subsequent log-in information was gathered. Although the exact number of victims is unknown, the attack lasted three days. 

    2. 2015 Brazil attack: A pharming attack occurred in brazil that exploited the vulnerabilities present in the router

    Customers who possessed the below listed home routers were the target of pharming phishing attacks: 

    Any router protected with the default login information is vulnerable to this attack. In this attack, users received an email alerting them about their past due. The email contains a link to a portal where users can resolve their issues. However, this portal host code conducts a cross-site request forgery attack against flaws in telco-distributed UTStarcom and TP-Link home routers. If CSRF vulnerabilities are present on the routers, they are exploited by iframes using JavaScript on the pages. Additionally, they attempted to use known default username-password combinations to brute force the router's admin page. The primary DNS setting can be changed to the attacker-controlled site, and the secondary setting can be changed to Google's public DNS, once the attackers have gained access to the router. It was easier for them to perform Man in the middle attack and sniff the network traffic. Hackers can able to get juicy information like credentials and PII data  

    3. 2019 Venezuela attack

    During this Pharming attack, victims (volunteers of Vietnam) who have supported Venezuela's humanitarian aid campaign. In this movement, volunteers need to sign up for a website, where they are provided with instructions on how to help the organization. The volunteers need to fill in their details, such as whether they have a medical degree, personally identifiable information ( PII) details like name, personal ID, phone number and their living location. On 6th February, this website was live online. A few days later, the attacker created an identical website having the same domain name and content hosted on the same IP address. Both the real and attacker-hosted websites resolved to the same IP address. Inside Venezuela, whatever information is filled in by the user on the original or fake website will get redirected to a fake website. This redirected information will be utilized by the attacker outside the country by resolving this domain to some different IP addressesin by the user on the original or fake website will get redirected to a fake website. This redirected information will be utilized by the attacker outside the country by resolving this domain to some different IP addresses.

    Effects of Pharming Attacks

    • Financial losses for both businesses and people are one of the effects of pharming attack. 
    • Another effect of pharming is that it undermines consumer confidence in secured internet transactions and communications. 

    Differences between Pharming and Phishing

    DefinitionA cyber  attack in which attacker redirects user to a fake websitePhishing is a type of social engineering attack in which attacker trick users to clicked a malicious link to download malware and redirect the user to some spoofed or attacker control website
    ProcessSensitive and confidential information are stolen through domain spoofing, DNS cache poisoning, DNS hijacking, etcThe attacker steal sensitive and confidential information by tricking the victims on malicious links
    Ease of Exploitation
    The difficult level to achieve this attack is high .Not easily identifiableThe difficulty level to achieve this attack is low. This attack can be easily identifiable
    MediumLocal hosts file, websites, home router, DNS server"Email, fax, and instant messaging"
    ImpactIt impacts large number of audienceIt impact single user


    With the aid of a pharming attack, the attackers can carry out their phishing attack scenarios in a more effective manner, making it more dependable and difficult to detect that users are being attacked. To tackle such issues, business requires a strong understanding of cybersecurity. Organizations do not offer security awareness training to their employees until and unless they do not become victims of scams and cybersecurity attacks. Because of these factors, humans are the information security chain's weakest link and are prone to cybercrime attacks.  is one such course that helps you to develop the cyber skills to move fast and stay secure from Pharming in the cyber security world.KnowledgeHut CEH course is one such course that helps you to develop the cyber skills to move fast and stay secure from Pharming in the cyber security world.

    Pharming FAQs

    1How is a pharming attack done?

    Pharming Attack is done by installing harmful software on a personal computer (PC) or server to trick users into visiting shady websites without their knowledge or agreement. Pharming leverages the use of DNS to redirect a user to an attacker control website.

    2How is pharming harmful?

    In a pharming scam, malicious code modifies the IP address information, which unknowingly drives users to attacker controlled websites. After being routed to these websites, users are requested to provide personal information, and credentials which are later used to perpetrate identity theft or financial fraud.

    3Why is pharming a more complicated way of phishing?

    Pharming is more complicated than phishing since it manipulates the DNS level, making it challenging for consumers to recognize it. 

    4What is the difference between spam and phishing?

    Unwanted trash email that is distributed widely is known as spam. In most cases, some spam is delivered with good intentions, such as to sell you something while Phishing attempts are made with the intention of obtaining your personal information via dubious methods. 

    5Why do hackers use phishing emails?

    Hackers use phishing emails to gain confidential information and sensitive information.

    6What are the steps to protect yourself from pharming?

    Below are the listed steps to protect yourself from pharming 

    •  Make use of strong router passwords 
    • Implement usage of Password manager  
    • Make use of Anti-malware software on the PCs

    Vitesh Sharma

    Blog Author

    Vitesh Sharma, a distinguished Cyber Security expert with a wealth of experience exceeding 6 years in the Telecom & Networking Industry. Armed with a CCIE and CISA certification, Vitesh possesses expertise in MPLS, Wi-Fi Planning & Designing, High Availability, QoS, IPv6, and IP KPIs. With a robust background in evaluating and optimizing MPLS security for telecom giants, Vitesh has been instrumental in driving large service provider engagements, emphasizing planning, designing, assessment, and optimization. His experience spans prestigious organizations like Barclays, Protiviti, EY, PwC India, Tata Consultancy Services, and more. With a unique blend of technical prowess and management acumen, Vitesh remains at the forefront of ensuring secure and efficient networking solutions, solidifying his position as a notable figure in the cybersecurity landscape.

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