What Are Phishing Attacks?

Phishing is a social engineering attack launched to steal user data like credit card numbers. When a hacker initiates a phishing attack, they pose as a trustworthy agent or entity to lure a victim into reading an email, instant message, or text message.

When their victim clicks a malicious link, malware is installed on their computer. As a result, the malware freezes the computer or reveals sensitive information.

Hackers use phishing with the intent to access governmental or corporate networks. Phishing is part of a larger attack like an advanced persistent threat (APT) event. In this case, the cyber criminal bypasses security perimeters and accesses secured data.

5 Types Of Phishing Attacks

To protect your business from hackers, you need to familiarize yourself with the main types of phishing attacks. Below are a few of phishing attacks.

1. Spear Phishing

This phishing attack focuses on a specific corporation or person. To launch this attack, the perpetrator must have classified knowledge about the organization, including its power structure.

A spear-phishing attack may play out as follows:

  • The hacker finds out the names of employees within a company’s marketing department and accesses the latest project invoices

  • The attacker pretends to be the marketing director and sends an invoice to the project manager. The email’s text, style, and logo are the same as the company’s standard email template.

  • A link attached to the email redirects to a password-protected document, which is a modified version of a stolen invoice

  • The project manager is required to log in to view the document. After logging in, the perpetrator steals the project manager’s credentials and has full access to sensitive areas in the company’s network.
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Spear phishing is an effective way of initiating the first stage of an advanced persistent threat.

2. Email Phishing Scams

Email phishing is a game of chance. The attacker will create thousands of fraudulent messages to acquire important information or money from a fraction of the recipients who are lured by the scam.

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The attacker will design phishing messages that look like actual emails from a renowned company. The perpetrator will use the same logos, signatures, phrasing, and typefaces, so the messages look legit.

The attacker will try to pressure their targets into action by creating a sense of urgency. For example, the attacker may threaten account expiration after a certain time frame. This kind of pressure causes the recipient to lower their guard and comply.

Additionally, the links in email phishing attacks look like their legitimate counterparts. However, if you are keen, you will notice a misspelled domain name or additional sub-domains. The similarities between two addresses make the recipient less doubtful about the legitimacy of the fake link.

3. Whaling Attacks

A whaling attack targets the senior members of your company. This includes board members, senior executives, and celebrities. These members are considered to have access to sensitive and crucial data more than lower-level staff.

A whaling attack is initiated through an email. The content of the email creates an urgency to hook the victim. In these attacks, the perpetrator imitates senior staff. Therefore, these phishing methods hardly involve the use of malicious URLs and fake links.

One common example of a whaling attack is a bogus tax return. Cybercriminals value tax forms because they contain useful information about their targets. This includes names, social security numbers, and bank account information.

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4. Clone Phishing

A clone phishing attack arises when a hacker creates a malicious copy of a recent message you received and then re-sends it from a source that seems credible. The victim of clone phishing first receives a legitimate message from the company and later receives what looks like the same message soon afterward.

The hacker replaces the links and attachments from the original email with malicious ones. The attacker will also explain that they resent the message because they were issues with the attachment or links in the previous email.

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5. Smishing Attacks

A smishing attack is also called SMS phishing. This is where the attacker uses text messages to trap their targets. These attacks are similar to email phishing attacks in that the hacker sends texts from what looks like a legitimate source. The texts contain malicious links.

The hacker will disguise the links as offers to win prizes or coupon codes. Since many people like freebies and opportunities to win, victims of smishing attacks click on links and are directed to a spoofed web page. These attacks aim to steal users’ financial information or login details.

Phishing Protection

Cybercriminals exploit the weaknesses of their targets to launch their attacks. Therefore, the best way to protect yourself from phishing attacks is to engage in safe practices. A rule of thumb is never to click or open suspicious emails.

Secondly, you should ensure all your accounts have strong passwords and 2-factor authentication. Additionally, encrypt important files and never disclose personal information to unverified sources.