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What is Spear Phishing? | Spear Phishing Explained

If you are a victim of Spear phishing or just a wanderer who came here to know about it, then you are at the right place.

This blog will guide you about the following:

  1. What is phishing?
  2. What is spear phishing?
  3. Difference between phishing and spear phishing
  4. How does spear phishing work?
  5. What measures you can take to avoid scams of spear phishing

Phishing Attack

Phishing may be defined as a fraudulent attempt to obtain personal or sensitive information which may include usernames, passwords, and credit card details.

It is simply done by email spoofing or well designed instant messaging which ultimately directs users to enter personal information at a fraudulent website that is disguised to look like a real one that is why these emails are used as a weapon by hackers and are termed as phishing emails.

Learn more about what is phishing.

There are many types of Phishing attacks but the most sophisticated and dangerous of all is Spear phishing email.

What is Spear Phishing?

Spear phishing attack is a highly targeted and well-researched attempt to steal sensitive information, including financial credentials for malicious purposes, by gaining access to computer systems.

spear phishing email

An email or a message from a disguised trusted source is sent to the targeted victims, including specific individual, organization, or business because relying on sophisticated technologies and coding to penetrate systems were the old tactics to get passwords or other valuable personal data. That’s how social engineering works.

Spear Phishing versus Phishing

Spear phishing and Phishing attacks are amongst the increasingly refined form of cyberattacks which are used to acquire the confidential information and to inject malicious files into the person’s device.

However, regular phishing emails are too generic and are targeted to a large number of email addresses with less outcome because messages in it are not personalized.

While in spear phishing attacks, Victims are targeted using specially crafted emails that are disguised to be from a trusted source to trick people.

These emails are so well designed based on the demands and needs of victims to let people easily believe, which makes them submit their personal information and leading them to click on the links that have malware-infected files.

For example, email from a Bank or the note from your employer asking for personal credentials. In the end, both have the same targets.

How Does Spear Phishing Work?

For most people, spear phishing emails may sound simple and vague, but it has evolved to its whole new levels, and it cannot be traced and tracked without prior knowledge.

how-spear-phishing-works

Source: PhoenixNAP

The targeted victims’ social profiles e.g. Social Media and their behaviors on different Platforms, including buying and selling, are being stalked, and personal information including friends, family members, geographical location and email addresses are being gathered from those social media platforms.

The personalized messages are then forwarded to the victims appearing to be from the friends or the trusted sources asking about your login passwords to access photos or similar information.

Sometimes the messaging may ask for vital information to increase the success rates, which may demand your pin codes, account numbers, etc. This information is then used to duplicate your identity and to access the accounts that may be crucial for your online privacy.

Get detailed knowledge about internet privacy.

Who Does Spear Phishing Target?

Not too long ago, phishing attacks on big firms started by targeting entry-level employees who allow hackers to gain easy access to the corporate system accidentally. The hacker then injects viruses and sophisticated malware, which can open the organizational system’s cameras and microphones for surveillance.

But now, hackers are so smart that they directly attack more senior members of a company who have a higher net worth, or who host a large number of funds.

A Real-Life Example: Spear Phishing may invade your privacy

Chadd Carr, a Computer Crime Investigator, got a firsthand experience while investigating a spear phishing attack. Here’s what he has to say:

I once ran an investigation where a threat actor paid a programmer to develop malicious software targeting a predominant attorney in a leading law firm that specialized in Mergers & Acquisitions. Although the actor was successful in engineering access to the attorney via a sophisticated phishing campaign, the malicious software was captured.

If successful, the software would have enabled the actor to monitor the attorney’s email, gain insights into emerging deals before they were made public, and sell that information to other actors looking to buy and sell stocks. Strong cybersecurity, much like life, requires collaboration.

How to Prevent Spear Phishing Attacks

  • What Personal information you are providing to the world is a primary question: Providing too much information can potentially risk your privacy. So limiting that information to its minimum level and configuring privacy settings may help.
  • Possess the right password combinations: Never use the same passwords for the different accounts and try different variations, including number and phrases for each account.
  • Updating software Frequently: You must update the software right away whenever notified because most of those are security updates. So doing so will ultimately benefit you. You can also enable automatic software updates if possible.
  • Avoid clicking on the links directly: Double-check the links before clicking on it. They might be from trustworthy sources but could possess the malicious website’s link. You can do this by floating your mouse on to the URL if the anchor is different from the website link, then there are more chances that the link is a scam.
  • Most important, arrange a data protection program at your company: This might include educating about the best data protection practices and how to counter such phishing attacks whenever targeted.

Eric Carrell, President of SPCR, says:

Companies must use SPF, DKIM, and DMARC authentication keys. If a company is using G Suite by Google, this is very easy. Essentially this helps prevent people from spoofing the company email address to attack a low-level employee.

The growing adaptability of Smartphone IoT devices has got cybercriminals cooking up ways to infiltrate your internet network, whether you’re on a public or private Wi-Fi network.

Cybersecurity experts highly advise internet users to encrypt their online traffic so that one is far away from prying eyes and under a secure umbrella. Organizations should adopt robust tools such as a VPN to enhance employee’s online presence and give them the added capability of secure remote access from any corner of the globe.

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