Nowadays, spear-phishing attacks are on the rise and threaten the integrity of internet security. The digital world has witnessed many spear-phishing examples, such as accessing user accounts, using social engineering techniques, and many more.
Spear phishing and phishing are two confusing terminologies despite both being online attacks; phishing is a broader term for attempting to steal user data from a vast target base whereas, spear-phishing refers to attacking and gaining access to individuals or a specific institution. Therefore, spear-phishing campaigns are well-designed and take time for a successful attack since it targets particular entities.
Recent spear phishing attacks commonly observed that intruders send out emails or other communication mediums that look from authentic sources but contain malicious attachments or URLs. Due to its resemblances to authoritative sources and targets specific individuals spear phishing attacks have been proliferating, and examples show how common is spear phishing.
How Does Spear Phishing Works?
To begin with, spear phishing is almost similar to phishing attacks; in a sense, both aim to get hold of user information for malicious activities. The attack strategy takes places over time in different phases, as discussed below:
- A malicious actor may get necessary user information from the internet or some other offline resources.
- After the hacker targets a specific user, intruders will research the person or entity throughout online and offline sources and understand the victim’s social, economic, and political backgrounds.
- In the next step, attacker consults victim through communication channels requesting sensitive information using the data already possessed by the hacker.
- Emails or other communication mediums will contain attachments or URLs that take users to a spoofed website where they will be requested to enter sensitive information for further browsing.
- Once the sensitive information is recorded, hackers will initiate malicious activities such as getting hold of the victim’s financial accounts or other unethical operations.
Various Methods Of Spear Phishing
An attacker can use various methods to gain access and modify authorization methods before initiating exploitation. A malicious actor can use any of the following ways for a successful spear phishing.
- Attaching an URL in the email that directs the user to a spoofed look similar to the company website and backdoors user credentials as they are entered.
- Installing a Trojan in the email attachments, which upon any user actions, extracts itself, finds loopholes, and opens up a back door for remote access.
- Spoofing the sender email id to use it as a legitimate source and request sensitive information from its victims.
- Using social engineering techniques such as ringing up to an organization to modify user details or retrieve user details from the company and use it for cyberattacks.
Tips On How To Prevent Spear Phishing Attacks
The rise in spear-phishing attacks has shaken the entire cybersecurity sector. Individuals and businesses are also on the rush on how to prevent phishing attacks, which are discussed below.
- Frequently check your online accounts and privatize accounts to avoid misuse of your personal information.
- Browser add-ons and other applications which can notify the user of suspicious emails or content and block such materials.
- Use a multi-layered authentication mechanism instead of traditional passwords or OTP techniques.
- Use encryption for all telecommunications within the organization.
- Convert all HTML emails into text-only email messages or disable HTML emails.
- Use spam filters behind the server to detect and quarantine spam and suspicious inbound and outbound messages.
- Regularly check and update anti-virus solutions or any other security-related applications if available.
- Never click on URL inside an email’s content, even if it’s from authentic and reliable sources such as banks or workplaces.
- Be alert and logical every time, be vigilant when a friend asks for username or password or both.
- Implement data security education programs in organizations to make employees aware of information security and privacy policies.
It is evident that spear phishing is just another form of a cyberattack that aims to attack individual accounts or specific organizations for financial gains or causing damages. The collection of essential information initiates such attacks, and then the hacker acts as the victim’s friend or family member to gain sensitive information. Since the attacker looks genuine, it’s the most successful cyber-attack and accounts for approximately 91% of attacks.