Spear phishing – one of the biggest cybersecurity threats

What is spear phishing?

Regular phishing attacks are carried out against random individuals in an attempt to get them to reveal sensitive information, such as passwords, credit card details, social security numbers, etc., download malware, or transfer money to the attacker. Spear phishing is a more sophisticated attack, as it is carried out against a specific person. This requires a period of preparation when the attacker collects as much information as possible about the target to then appear more trustworthy, familiar, and legit when the hacker finally makes contact. As a result, spear-phishing attacks are more difficult to detect.

How does spear phishing work?

When attempting spear phishing, the attacker first collects information about the target, such as the person’s name, job title, email address, phone number, and personal information. Then, the attacker crafts an email, text message, etc. asking the target to take some type of action. This could be clicking on a link, downloading a file, transferring money to an account, providing valuable information. Since the email is made to look like it’s coming from the target’s boss, coworker, bank, friend, or an online store like Amazon, and the message typically conveys the urgency of the matter, people often fall for spear phishing attacks.

How to prevent spear phishing?

The first step to minimizing the risk of a spear-phishing attack is to educate your staff about the existence of these attacks, the way they work, etc. In addition to providing initial training, you should continuously test how alert your employees are when it comes to spear-phishing attempts by running frequent simulations. Employees who fail the test should be provided with additional training. It’s also advisable to incorporate cybersecurity awareness education into the day-to-day life of the company so that your employees are always aware that they can encounter a phishing attempt at any moment.

Frequently asked questions

What helps protect from spear phishing?

Providing proper cybersecurity training to your employees and running frequent spear-phishing simulations is the best way to protect your company from the danger imposed by these attacks.

Does spear-phishing happen often?

Spear phishing is one of the most popular methods of attack used by hackers. In fact, over 90% of all cyber-attacks and data breaches are started by a successful spear phishing attempt. In addition to the high success rate of this attack method, it is also not difficult or expensive to carry out, as the attacker can easily gather necessary information from social media, company websites, etc.

Why can spear-phishing be so dangerous?

Spear phishing carries a lot more potential damage than regular phishing attacks since the attacker tailors their communications to the target. This makes spear-phishing attacks harder to recognize. Plus, if the attacker is targeting a certain employee of a company or organization, their target could be very significant (such as corporate bank account details or passwords to sensitive information) rather than a relatively small sum of money.

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    Vitaly is a principal consultant at Hackcontrol as wall as aa business and IT thought leader. He has over 15 years of experience in consulting, account management and is a specialist in cybersecurity.