What exactly is Phishing? It’s one of the biggest threats from hackers, yet most people still aren’t sure how phishing works. Hackers mimic the emails, forms, and websites of legitimate companies to lure people into providing their private, personal, and business information. Credit card numbers, social security information, account logins, and personal identifiers are just some of the data hackers are looking for. Victims don’t realize they’ve been compromised until long after the event took place. And often only after their identity or finances are affected.
In the past, an attack was carried out relatively quickly. As soon as the victim gave up their information, the hacker moved in and stole money from the compromised account. Today, it’s often more lucrative for hackers to sell that information on the Dark Web, resulting in longer-lasting and even more devastating attacks.
3 Types of Phishing Attacks
Phishing attempts directed at specific individuals, or companies, are termed ‘spear phishing.’ These attacks gather personal information to increase the probability of success. This technique is by far the most successful on the Internet today, accounting for 91% of attacks.
Personalized attacks work because the victim typically doesn’t identify the attack as a threat. The approach is usually an email that contains a bogus attachment. The email usually looks legitimate, as it includes the person’s name and position in the company. Once the attachment is clicked on, threats, including ransomware, are launched.
Clone phishing is an attack where a previously delivered email containing an attachment or link is used to create an almost identical email. The attachment is replaced with a malicious copy, then sent from an email address spoofed to appear that it came from the original sender. It may claim to be a resend of the original or an updated version.
Clone Phishing attacks can look like an anti-virus update, a refund or credit offer, and even gift cards. Make sure you know where these emails came from before you click on any links. Better yet, don’t click on those links at all!
The term ‘whaling’ is used because these attacks target the big fish of the company. These phishing attacks are directed specifically at senior executives and high-profile targets. Aimed at executives, the masquerading emails will take a more serious tone. The email is crafted to target the person’s role in the company. The content of a whaling attack email is written as a legal subpoena, customer complaint, or a payment request.
Whaling emails masquerade as a critical business messages. They appear to be sent from a legitimate businesses. Whaling phishers have also forged official-looking FBI subpoena emails and claimed that the manager needs to click a link and install special software to view the subpoena.
Some examples are, emails from a bank or medical office asking to update information online or confirm the username and password? It could be a suspicious email from your boss asking you to execute a wire transfer. If you see any of these you’re among the 76% of businesses that were victims of a phishing attack in the last year.
Methods of Delivery
Most phishing scams are received through emails. But now hackers are getting trickier with their methods of execution. Personal device and Phone attacks using SMS texting (smishing), Voice phishing (vishing) are very common. Social engineering, a method in which users can be encouraged to click on various kinds of unexpected content for a variety of technical and social reasons, is everywhere.
Phishing, the most widely used method for spreading ransomware, increases significantly every year. Anyone can become a victim of phishing, or in turn, ransomware attacks. However, hackers have begun targeting organizations that are more likely to pay the ransom. Small businesses, education, government, and healthcare often don’t have protected data backups. That means they are unable to re-install a pre-ransomed version of their data. Instead, they have to pay their way out or cease to exist. The cost of the ransom alone can be the end of many small businesses. Victims of phishing campaigns are often branded as untrustworthy. This could mean that some customers turn to their competitors, resulting in even greater financial loss.
Phishing campaigns are rampant
There are nearly 5 million new phishing sites created every month, according to Webroot Threat Report. On the dark web, hackers can find Phishing as a Service, offering phishing attacks in exchange for payment. One Russian website, “Fake Game,” claims over 61,000 subscribers and 680,000 credentials stolen.
The stats of these attacks are scary. Over 30% of phishing messages are carelessly opened. 12% of targets click on the attachments. In short, these hackers look legitimate.
New phishing campaigns and sites can be built by sophisticated hackers in a matter of minutes. While we think there are far more legitimate ways to earn money, these individuals have made a living out of scamming the general public.
Since Emails are the most common delivery methods for Phishing attacks, it makes sense to train your employees how to spot these scams. It’s safe to assume that, if an email looks fishy, it probably is.