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A Big Catch: Cloud Phishing from Google App Engine and Azure App Service

Aug 12 2020

Threat actors are leveraging top tier cloud apps to host phishing baits. Netskope Threat Labs has identified an ongoing O365 phishing campaign hosted in Google App Engine with the credential harvester mostly hosted in Azure App Service. This phishing campaign typically targets O365 users via phishing emails with a direct link or attachment. 

The campaign started in late June 2020 and is still active today. Based on similarities in the phishing pages, we believe the same threat actor is responsible for generating more than 100 phishing pages and continues to add more daily. These phishing pages and attack elements were hosted in different App Engine and Azure websites. At the time of writing, more than 60% of the URLs we observed were active and not detected or blocked by security scanning services in popular browsers like Chrome and Firefox. 

Our earlier posts Phishing in the public cloud: You’ve been served and Amazon themed Phish hosted in Azure Sites detailed phishing attacks that used Azure Websites to serve up parts of the attack. This ongoing campaign indicates that threat actors are continuing to use cloud services to launch phishing attacks at scale from widely used cloud services, making it harder for users to recognize and vendors to detect, block, or take down. 

This blog post details our analysis of this campaign and provides recommendations to help protect you and your organization from falling victim to similar phishing campaigns. – Phishing baits

Google App Engine is a Google Cloud Platform (GCP) service for developing and hosting web applications. App Engine allows you to serve SSL (HTTPS) traffic through your domain, https://<app> Users tend to place trust in websites that are hosted by top-tier vendors like Google. Threat actors are exploiting this trust by hosting phishing baits in Google services as shown in Figure 1.

Screenshot of phishing page hosted in
Figure 1: Phishing page hosted in

Analysis of the phishing campaign

The attack starts with a bitly link shortener link, https://bitly[.]com/33nMLkZ, generally distributed via phishing emails that redirect to https://o365apps[.] as shown in Figure 2.

Screenshot of a bitly URL shortener
Figure 2: bitly URL shortener

When visiting the bait, the victim is presented with a phished page hosted in to enter the credentials as shown in Figure 3.

Screenshot of phished page hosted in
Figure 3: Phished page hosted in

Upon entering the email and password, the victim is presented with a fake message that the account and password are incorrect as shown in Figure 4.

Screenshoot of phished page displaying a fake message that the account or password is incorrect
Figure 4: Phished page displaying a fake message that the account or password is incorrect

The victim’s credentials are then sent to the page, ‘handler.php’ hosted in july-28[.].azurewebsites[.]net as shown in Figure 5.

Screenshot showing snippet of the victim's stolen credentials
Figure 5: Snippet of the victim’s credentials hosted in july-28[.].azurewebsites[.]net

The packet capture illustrating this credential theft action is shown in Figure 6.

Screenshot showing packet capture of the credential theft
Figure 6: Packet capture of the credential theft

Phishing campaign

Using NSIQ, Netskope’s in-house threat intelligence hub, we were able to identify multiple O365-themed phishing pages using Starting in late June, we observed 110 unique bait URLs and 72 credential hosting URLs related to this campaign. We identified that the threat actor tried using several domains to host the credentials as shown in Figure 7.

Graph depicting credential hosted domains
Figure 7: Credential hosted domains

The above figure clearly shows that the threat actor has mostly used Azure App Service to host the credential harvester at It appears the attacker tried out multiple different options to serve the credential harvester and chose to use Azure App Service on an ongoing basis, likely because of its ease of use and Microsoft-issued SSL certs. That we continue to see new subdomains appear daily on both Azure App Service and Google App engine indicates that the attacker is having success on both of these platforms.


This post described a phishing campaign that used and for hosting the phishing baits and attack elements. We would recommend users to not enter their credentials from unknown websites and hyperlinks even if the website is from a trusted domain. Users can recognize a phishing site based on the domain, which indicates that it is in App Engine, and not an official Microsoft website. Enterprises should educate their users to recognize AWS, Azure, and GCP object store URLs, so they can discern phishing sites from official sites. Netskope reported the phishing sites to Google and Microsoft Security teams on August 10, 2020.


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Ashwin Vamshi
Ashwin Vamshi is a Security Researcher with innate interest in targeted attacks and malwares using cloud services. He is primarily focusing in identifying new attack vectors and malwares, campaigns and threat actors using ‘cloud as an attack vector.’