Phishing is when an attacker tries to trick a user into doing the "wrong thing". For example, clicking on a malicious link to download malware or redirect to a suspicious website. Phishing can be done by text message, social media, or phone, but phishing is primarily used to describe attacks via email. Phishing emails reach millions of users directly and can be hidden in many harmless emails that busy users receive. Attacks can install and disrupt systems, malware (ransomware), and steal money and intellectual property.
What is a Phishing Attack?
Phishing attacks are commonly used to steal user data such as credit card numbers and login credentials. This happens when an attacker masks as a trusted entity and tricks the target into clicking and opening an instant message, email or text message. The link recipient is then fooled into opening the malicious link. This can lead to system freezes, malware installation, disclosure of sensitive information or as part of a ransomware attack. The attack can have catastrophic consequences too. Phishing attacks include fraudulent purchases, personal information theft for individuals, or money theft.
In addition, phishing is often used as part of large-scale attacks such as Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) events. Build a foothold in corporate or government networks. In this latter scenario, employees are at risk of bypassing security perimeters, distributing malware in closed environments, and gaining privileged access to protected data.
Types of Phishing
There are four major types of phishing. We have discussed them in detail below.
When fishing with a rod, various items such as bottom feeder, flounder, and junk can land under the waterline. Fishing with a spear allows you to aim for a specific fish. Therefore, the name. Spearfishing targets specific groups or types of individual company system administrators. You will receive emails from apparently trusted sources but instead direct unknown recipients to fake websites full of malware. The email sent often uses clever tactics to get the victim's attention.
Government-sponsored hackers are often behind these attacks. Cybercriminals intend to resell sensitive data to governments and private companies. These cybercriminals use custom approaches and social engineering techniques to personalise their messages and websites effectively. As a result, even high-level targets within an organisation, such as executives, can open emails that they find safe. This slip-up allows cybercriminals to steal the data needed to attack the network.
How To Protect Yourself From Spear-Phishing
Traditional security frequently doesn`t prevent those assaults because they are very customised. As a result, they are tough to detect. One worker’s mistake will have extreme outcomes for governments, businesses or even nonprofit organisations. The fraudsters can screen sensitive information, devote numerous acts of espionage or control inventory fees with the help of stolen data. In addition, spear phishing assaults can install malware to seize computers, organising them into full-size networks known as botnets and use them to deny provider assaults.
Whaling attacks are also a type of phishing attack. Target prominent employees such as chief financial officers or chief executive officers to obtain and steal sensitive information from companies. In many whaling attacks, the attacker aims to manipulate the target and allow high-value transfers to themselves from the victim. Because of its targeted nature, whaling is often more difficult to prevent than traditional phishing attacks as they cannot be detected easily. In an organisation, security managers can reduce the effectiveness of whaling attacks by encouraging senior management to attend information security awareness training.
Whaling attacks trick individuals into leaking corporate and personal information through email spoofing, content spoofing efforts and social engineering. For example, an attacker can send an email to a target that appears to be from a trusted source. Some whaling campaigns include customised malicious websites specially created for attacks.
Whaling attack websites and emails are highly customised and personalised. It often contains the target's name, job title, or other relevant information obtained from various sources. This level of personalisation makes it difficult to find whaling attacks.
How To Protect Yourself From whaling
- Awareness of the employees: To prevent cybersecurity threats of all kinds, all employees must be responsible for protecting the company's assets. In the case of whaling phishing, all employees and the senior management need to be educated about detecting these attacks. High-level executives are targeted, but low-level employees can indirectly expose executives to attacks through vulnerabilities. Employees need to be aware of social engineering tactics to watch out for, such as fake email addresses that impersonate trusted email addresses.
- Social Media Education: Raise employee awareness and raise senior management awareness about the potential role of social media in enabling whaling breaches. Social media has much information that cybercriminals can use to design social engineering attacks such as whale phishing. Executives can restrict access to this information by setting privacy restrictions on their social media accounts. CEOs are so prominent on social media that they often send behavioural data that criminals can imitate and misuse.
- Multi-Step Verification Process: All sensitive data or requests for transfer and access to sensitive data must undergo multiple levels of validation before being approved. Scan all emails and their attachments from unknown senders for viruses, malware, and other issues to identify potentially malicious traffic.
- Data Protection: Establish a data security policy to monitor email and files for suspicious network activity. These policies should provide hierarchical protection against whaling and general phishing to reduce the likelihood of a final line of defence breach. Such policies monitor emails for signs of phishing attacks and automatically block them from reaching potential victims.
These methods can be followed to avoid whaling.
Smishing is a cyber-attack performed by sending mobile text messages or SMS phishing. Victims are tricked into providing sensitive information to disguised attackers. SMS phishing may be using malicious websites or malware. Smishing happens on mobile SMS platforms, including non-SMS channels like database-backed messaging apps.
Smishing can use two types of methods to steal your sensitive information. They are:
Malware: The smishing URL hyperlink may manoeuvre you to download malware — malicious software — that self-instals itself in your phone. This SMS malware may disguise itself as a valid app, tricking you into inputting your personal information and sending these statistics to the cyber-attackers.
Malicious websites: Links in phishing messages can lead to fake websites that require you to enter sensitive personal information. Cybercriminals can easily steal information using custom-made malicious websites to mimic legitimate websites.
How does smishing spread?
As mentioned earlier, smile attacks are provided by both traditional NON-SMS messaging apps and messaging. SMS phishing attacks are continuously overgoing and are not noticed due to fraudulent properties.
Buffer fraud is improved due to users with incorrect confidence in the safety of text messages.
First of all, most people know about the risk of e-mail fraud. You were probably a suspicious email that says, "Hi-check out this link". Excluding genuine personal messages tends to have an important red flag of e-mail spam fraud.
When people use the phone, they don't pay much attention. Many people think smartphones are safer than computers. However, smartphone security is limited and cannot always be directly protected from smishing.
Regardless of the means adopted, these programs require little beyond your trust and misunderstanding to succeed. As a result, smishing can attack mobile devices with text messaging capabilities.
There can be different types of smishing, like gifting smishing that promises free service, customer support smishing that masquerades as customer service, covid-19 smishing to track health or help covid-19 victims, etc.
You can easily escape smishing by not responding to messages from an unknown origin.
Voice phishing, also popularly known as vishing, has the same purpose as other phishing attacks. Attackers are still chasing your confidential personal or corporate data. This attack occurs via a voice call. Common phishing attacks include calls from someone who claims to be a Microsoft representative. This person informs you that you have found a virus on your computer. The attacker is then asked for credit card details so that they can install an updated version of their antivirus software on their computer. The attacker has obtained your credit card information and probably has malware installed on your computer.
How to recognise a vishing scam?
- If you can recognise vishing scams, you can be safe from them. Here are a few ways to spot a vishing scam.
- Callers claim to represent the Social Security Administration or medicare unit as neither of these agencies will contact and request your financial or personal information.
- Scammers are trying to take advantage of your fears by threatening arrest warrants and account issues. If you receive any of these calls, stay calm and hang up.
- The caller wants your information. You may be asked to verify your name, address, date of birth, social security number, bank account information, and other identification information. They may have some of that information to make you believe they are genuine. The goal is to get the rest of the information they don't have yet.
It has been the most common phishing used since the 1990s. The fraudulent will send these emails to all available email addresses. Emails usually notify you that your account has been compromised, so you must click the link provided and respond immediately. Email languages often contain grammatical and spelling errors so that these attacks can be spotted easily. You can easily avoid email phishing by avoiding emails from unknown senders.
Some other types of phishing known are pharming, man-in-the-middle attack, business email compromise, clone phishing, malvertising, search engine phishing, malware phishing, etc.
Phishing can affect businesses of all sizes and types. It can be involved in large-scale campaigns (attackers are collecting new passwords or trying to make money easily), or it can be the first stage in a targeted ambush on your business. More specifically, the theft of confidential data is possible. In targeted campaigns, attackers can use information about companies and employees to make their messages more realistic and compelling.