What is Spoofing? Ways to Prevent It

Abeerah Hashim  - Security Expert
Last updated: November 10, 2023
Read time: 17 minutes

Spoofing is a family of hacking strategies that rely on social engineering to break the weakest link in most digital chains: a human being. It's an umbrella term covering many hacking techniques of varying sophistication.

Spoofing is an umbrella term that includes a wide variety of hacking techniques. However, most of them are forms of social engineering, meaning they need cooperation from the prospective victim. And that is the good news because awareness is a powerful weapon to fight the bane of spoofing. This guide elaborates on what spoofing is, its types, and how to prevent falling victim to spoofing attacks.

In cybersecurity slang, “spoofing” refers to a strategy in which a fraudster impersonates somebody else’s personality or credentials (personal or institutional) to earn a victim’s trust. The aim is to abuse that trust to meet the fraudster’s objective (access to a system, sensitive data, money, or installing malware).

What is spoofing?

Spoofing is an umbrella term rather than a specific type of attack or malware. It involves a cybercriminal attempting to pass as somebody else, such as a person or an organization that the victim would trust. The point is that, as the hacker earns that trust, he will use it to make the victim perform a series of unusual actions to help the hacker achieve a goal. So, whenever a digital criminal tries to pretend he’s somebody else, he’s spoofing.

Spoofing can happen through any communication channel available to both the victim and the scammer. It comes in many flavors, depending on the technological sophistication involved in each attempt.

Spoofing is an excellent example of “social engineering” in which the success of a criminal activity relies as much upon the ability of the criminal to psychologically manipulate the victim as on their degree of technical prowess. Kevin Mitnick is the most famous hacker whose exploits relied heavily on social engineering to succeed. These techniques play on the weakness of the human user as the most vulnerable link in the security chain because of fear, greed, or ignorance.