Malwarebytes security researchers have identified a new campaign in which tech support scammers are exploiting a cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability and are relying exclusively on links posted on Facebook to reach potential victims.
The scam starts with malicious bit.ly shortened links that are being distributed on the social media platform, and which ultimately take the intended victims to a browser locker page. According to Malwarebytes, certain games and applications on Facebook appear to be abused for the distribution of these links.
Over a period of three months, the researchers found a total of 50 different bit.ly links that were being used in this campaign. This, they say, suggests that the tech support scammers were regularly changing these links to avoid blacklisting.
The bit.ly URLs would trigger a second stage redirection where a Peruvian news website (rpp[.]pe) containing a cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability is abused for an open redirect. The legitimate site has more than 23 million visits per month.
“Besides redirecting users to other sites, an attacker could exploit the XSS to rewrite the current page into anything they like,” Malwarebytes notes.
Initially, the attackers were directly loading decoy cloaking domains designed to check incoming traffic and deliver the malicious content to legitimate victims only. Later on in the campaign, the attackers added exploitation of the open redirect flaw instead.
At the end of the redirection chain, the user is served a browser locker that shows an animation suggesting system files are being scanned, and threatening to delete the hard drive after five minutes.
The trick is likely convincing enough that some people do call the toll-free number that is listed on the page. Malwarebytes identified approximately 40 different phone numbers used in the campaign, but notes that the list might be longer.
The researchers say they did not call any of the numbers, but the next step of the tech support scam is well known: the victim is told their computer has been infected and is urged to immediately purchase expensive software or services to clean up their system.