While numerous strategies to steal a person’s or company’s information currently exist, one of the most common (and dangerous) is spear phishing. Individuals, companies, and organizations like the manor association all recognize the threat presented by spear phishing and encourage computer users to avoid falling for such an attack. However, to avoid spear phishing attacks, it’s important to understand what they are and how they work.
Spear Phishing in a Nutshell
Phishing has been around for several years. Phishing attacks target large groups of users in an attempt to gather personal information that exposes a user’s personal data. That leads to identity theft, bank and credit card misuse, and other issues. Spear phishing, on the other hand, carefully targets a small group of users, like employees of a single firm, to acquire a company or personal data. In many instances, the attacks also include malware that infects users’ computers. These attacks are generally difficult to spot and tend to be quite sophisticated.
The Most Recent Trends in Spear-phishing usually include criminals obtaining inside information that allows them to send targeted emails employees and other authorized individuals will deem to be valid. The emails will appear to be from trusted sources or individuals and ask recipients to provide information or data the criminals then use to obtain money or valuable information. When spear phishers obtain a sufficient amount of information about a company, they launch attacks that may target one or more employees or trusted suppliers and contractors.
What Makes These Attacks So Successful?
As a rule, spear-phishing succeeds because the targets believe the requests or information they receive are valid. According to realtimecampaign.com, attackers use both digital platforms and social engineering to attack a company. The immediate objective is to gather sensitive information like user names and passwords that can be used later. In many instances, seemingly innocent email messages contain links to malicious software that can then be used to further penetrate a company’s systems.
In the past, the attacks were relatively easy to identify, as the emails or other messages contained errors, poor grammar, and other clues. Today, attackers are better at delivering messages that appear to be genuine. The recipients have little reason to doubt the authenticity of the messages and frequently respond without thinking about the consequences. And, those consequences can be costly.
How to Identify an Attack
While avoiding sophisticated attacks is harder than in the past, there are signs to look for that will protect a company or an organization.
Incorrect email addresses, especially those including spelling changes or strange symbols.
Unusual wording one wouldn’t normally expect from a sender.
A message that includes wording that asks for an immediate response.
Unusual links or attachments that one would not normally expect.
Of course, spear-phishing attacks are evolving, which means it’s always important to think twice before opening messages that appear questionable or clicking on unknown links.
Instead of trusting one’s own judgment, consider partnering with a provider such as Abnormal Security that specializes in helping clients identify and eliminate these types of attacks.
If one is concerned about an organization’s ability to outsmart cybercriminals, contact security specialists for the advice needed to eliminate attacks.