Online fraudsters use fake plane tickets to get personal data, researchers warn

By Kuksung Nam, The Readable
May 15, 2023 7:23PM GMT+9 Updated May 16, 2023 7:35PM GMT+9

Cybercriminals conducted a phishing attack aimed at extorting the personal information of individuals who planned to travel aboard during the holiday season, according to cybersecurity experts.

In a recent report by South Korean cybersecurity firm AhnLab, attackers expected the number of travelers to increase during the holiday season and distributed phishing emails disguised as online plane tickets issued by one of the country’s biggest airlines. South Koreans enjoyed a three-day holiday season from April 29 to May 1 and another from May 5 to May 7, celebrating Labor Day on May 1 and Children’s Day on May 5.

Based on their finding from April 30 to May 6, researchers at AhnLab explained that the scammers sent emails, titled “the payment for your plane ticket has been finalized, check before going to the airport,” written in Korean and including a detailed receipt. The researchers added that the cybercriminals also attached a file that lured users onto a fake login page and extorted their email credentials once the victims entered their information for the plane ticket confirmation.

AhnLab explained to The Readable that this is not a new form of phishing attack. “We have discovered multiple phishing email attacks disguised as plane tickets before,” said AhnLab in an email statement. “Generally, attackers often distributed phishing emails with subjects that attract users’ attention, such as plane ticket payments.”

The South Korean cybersecurity firm ESTsecurity also warned users of the same type of phishing attacks. In a report issued on May 9, researchers at ESTsecurity urged individuals to look out for emails related to other online booking systems when they had not made any previous reservations.

The cover image of this article was designed by Areum Hwang.

Kuksung Nam is a journalist for The Readable. She has extensively traversed the globe to cover the latest stories on the cyber threat landscape and has been producing in-depth stories on security and privacy by engaging with industry giants, foreign government officials and experts. Before joining The Readable, Kuksung reported on politics for one of South Korea’s top-five local newspapers, The Kyeongin Ilbo. Her journalistic skills and reportage earned her the coveted Journalists Association of Korea award in 2021 for her essay detailing exclusive stories about the misconduct of a former government official. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in French from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, a testament to her linguistic capabilities.