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Common Email Phishing Attacks, Techniques & Preventions

Email phishing attacks are a form of social engineering commonly used to obtain sensitive user information, such as login information and credit card details. It occurs when an attacker poses as a trustworthy entity and convinces a victim to open an email, instant message, or text message. The recipient is subsequently duped into clicking a malicious link, which may result in malware installation, the locking or blocking of the system in a ransomware attempt, or the disclosure of sensitive information.

The effects of an attack can be devastating. This involves illicit purchases, theft of funds, and identity theft for persons.

In addition, phishing attacks are frequently employed to acquire access to business or government networks as part of a more powerful attack, including an APT (advanced persistent threat) incident. In this scenario, personnel is compromised to circumvent security perimeters, propagate malware within a closed environment, or get privileged access to protected data.

In addition to a decline in market share, reputation, and consumer trust, a company that falls victim to such an attack generally incurs substantial financial damages. Depending on the scale, a phishing attempt may evolve into a security incident from which it will be impossible for an organization to recover.

What exactly is phishing?

Phishing attacks are deceptive communications that seem to originate from a reliable source but can corrupt any form of the data source. Attacks can grant access to your online accounts and personal information, get permissions to modify and corrupt associated systems, such as point-of-sale terminals and order processing systems, and in extreme cases, hijack entire networks unless a ransom price is paid.

Sometimes, hackers are content to steal your personal information and debit/credit card information for financial benefit. In other instances, phishing emails are sent to collect employee login information and further details for use in more aggressive assaults against specific persons or businesses. Everyone should be aware of phishing to protect themselves and maintain email security throughout a company.

How Do Email Phishing Attacks Work?

Phishing begins with a deceptive email or another contact to entice a target. The message is disguised to appear to originate from a trusted sender. If the victim is duped, they are lured into divulging sensitive information, typically via a fake website. Malware is sometimes also downloaded into the victim’s machine.

Cybercriminals begin by identifying the folks they intend to target. Then, they generate email and SMS messages that appear legitimate but contain malicious links, attachments, or lures that fool their targets into performing an unknown and potentially harmful action. In brief:

  1. Phishers frequently use fear, curiosity, urgency, and greed to convince victims to open attached files or click on links.
  2. Phishing attacks are intended to resemble communications from legitimate businesses and individuals.
  3. Cybercriminals are constantly inventing and advancing in sophistication.
  4. One effective phishing attack is all it takes to corrupt your network and steal your identity, so you should always think before you click.

Some Common Phishing Techniques

1. Email Phishing Attacks

Email phishing attacks are just a game of numbers. An attacker sending hundreds of false communications can earn considerable information and quantities of money, even if only a few receivers fall for the deception. As noted above, various tactics attackers utilize to boost their success rates.

First, they will take considerable measures to create phishing messages that appear to originate from a legitimate firm. The announcements appear real using the exact text, typefaces, logos, and signatures.

In addition, attackers will typically strive to induce a sense of urgency in their targets. As previously demonstrated, an email might threaten account expiration and set a countdown for the receiver. This type of pressure encourages the user to be less careful and more prone to making mistakes.

Lastly, links within communications mimic their exact equivalents but frequently feature a misspelled domain name or additional subdomains. In the preceding illustration, the URL myuniversity.edu/renewal was modified to myuniversity.edurenewal.com. Similarities between the two addresses create the sense of a secure link, making the recipient less conscious of an attack.

Check out: How To Keep Secure Your Mac Devices From Cyber Attacks

2. Spear phishing

There are two other, more sophisticated Email Phishing Attacks.

The first technique, spear phishing, involves sending fraudulent emails to a specific individual. These criminals will already possess some or all of the following details on the victim:

  • Name
  • Job description
  • Location of employment
  • Detailed information regarding their work function
  • Email address
  • Reliable coworkers, relatives, or other contacts, as well as samples of their writing

The fraudster can contact the individual by name and (probably) is aware that the individual’s employment entails making bank transactions on behalf of the organization.

The informality of the email also shows that the sender is a native English speaker and generates the impression that this is a genuine message, as opposed to one generated from a template.

3. Angler Phishing

These assaults utilize bogus social media profiles impersonating reputable companies. The attacker uses a username that imitates a legitimate organization (e.g., “@ebaysupport.com”) and the same profile image as the honest firm’s account.

Utilizing social media channels, attackers take advantage of consumers’ propensity to lodge complaints and solicit assistance from brands. However, the consumer contacts the attacker’s bogus social account rather than the legitimate brand.

When attackers get such a request, they may request personal information from the consumer to identify the problem and respond correctly. In other instances, the attacker gives a link to a malicious website posing as a false customer assistance page.

4. Phishing and Whales

Whale phishing is precisely what it sounds like: Phishing that targets prominent individuals. This includes celebrities, politicians, and C-suite executives. Typically, the attacker attempts to convince these well-known targets to reveal their personal information and business credentials. Typically, whaling attacks entail social engineering to convince the victim to believe the deceit.

5. Vishing and Smishing (SMS or text message phishing)

Telephones are substituted for emails as the mode of contact in both smishing and vishing. Smishing includes criminals sending text messages with similar content to Email Phishing, whereas vishing involves a telephone conversation.

Messages purporting to be from your bank notifying you of unusual activity are one of the most popular smishing pretexts.

The message implies that you have fallen victim to fraud and instructs you to click on a link to prevent future damage. However, the link leads the receiver to a website under the fraudster’s control designed to steal your banking information.

6. Search Engine Phishing?

Search engine phishing, often known as SEO poisoning or SEO Trojans, is when cybercriminals attempt to get the top search engine result. When you click on the link listed in the search engine, you are redirected to the hacker’s website. Threat actors can then steal your information when you engage with the website and enter sensitive information. Hacker sites can pose as any website, but banks, social media, banking, money transfers, and shopping sites are excellent options.

How do Prevent Phishing Attacks?

To protect against phishing attacks, both users and businesses must take action. User vigilance is crucial. Typically, spoof communication has subtle errors that reveal its genuine identity. These can include misspellings or alterations to domain names, as demonstrated in the previous URL example. Additionally, users should consider why they are receiving such an email.

Several methods can be done by businesses to mitigate phishing and spear phishing attacks:

  • 2FA (Two-factor authentication) is the most effective way of defending against phishing attempts, as it offers an additional layer of verification when accessing sensitive apps. Two-factor authentication requires users to have two things: something they know, like a password and username, and something they have, like a smartphone. Even if an employee’s credentials are compromised, 2FA prohibits them from being used because they are insufficient to gain entrance.
  • In addition to utilizing two-factor authentication, enterprises should implement stringent password management rules. For instance, employees should be obliged to update their passwords often and prohibited from reusing passwords across numerous platforms.
  • Education efforts can reduce the risk of phishing attempts by enforcing specific behaviors, such as avoiding clicking on external email links.

Bottom Line

Specialized techniques, such as spam filters, can mitigate the risk of phishing, although these have repeatedly proven unreliable.

Regularly, malicious emails will still get through, and when this occurs, the only thing standing between your organization and a breach is your employees’ ability to detect and respond to their fraudulent nature.

The Phishing Training And awareness Course teaches employees how to do just that, what occurs when individuals fall prey to phishing and how to limit the potential of an attack.

Check out: How to Protect Cryptocurrency From Cyber Attacks?

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