Just like animals flock to a watering-hole for needed water, there are times we all flock to the internet for need resources. We’ve become conditioned to just go there, and click, and get what we need.

The Watering Hole scam is an internet search trick, where fraudsters infect internet sites where settlement agents typically search for needed information (the proverbial watering hole.) The sites look legitimate, often tying to university names or real estate organization names, but these watering-holes searches are designed to plant malicious software, and infect any who open one of their malicious files.  They set traps and then wait for anyone to “find what they are looking for” and click the magic link.

Unlike other forms of loan or real estate fraud that search specific companies, these attackers use broad search categories on Google, Firefox, and Edge using innocuous search terms and answers to questions. For example, one settlement agent recently looked online for a form she had never used before, a “UCC subordination agreement.”  She went to the Internet and found what appeared to be the perfect document needed on an educational site. She clicked the link, innocuously named “UCC_Subordination_Agreement.zip” and downloaded it. Unfortunately, the Zip file launched a program designed to command-and-control a server controlled by the attacker. The link infiltrated the entire network and stole information.

So, remember, when looking for documents and information, and clicking on links to download a file, you are creating a high-risk situation. One that could affect your entire company. Follow procedures, use company documents, and be alert when doing searches online. Pay attention to where you are going, what you are clicking on, and where links may take you. When in doubt, don’t click the link! Take the extra time to check the file you are opening is by a trusted source.