How to prevent spear phishing attacks?
In today’s digital world there are several types of phishing techniques that target both individuals and businesses. Spear phishing, for example, is a popular method of cyber attacks that mostly uses malicious emails to target particular people or organisations. This type of phishing attempts to infect the target’s device with malware or steal sensitive data, such as login passwords.
The main difference between spear phishing and regular phishing lies on the level of personalization since spear-phishing is much more tailored and targeted. Spear-phishing emails, messages, and phone calls are carefully customised for a particular business or person. Due to the extensive study and effort put into tailoring communications that seem to be from reliable senders, spear-phishing assaults are more likely to trick potential victims. For this reason, it is highly important to be aware of this type of phishing tactic to prevent falling victim to it. In this article, we’ll cover every aspect you need to know about spear phishing to help you safeguard your personal and your company’s data.
How does Spear Phishing work?
Spear phishing attempts are risky and simple to be fooled by because of their individualised nature. Hackers conduct research before making any contact in order to increase the probability of a successful attack. The attackers are using social engineering techniques to appear trustworthy and credible. To learn personal details about their victim, spear phishers frequently use social networking platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. In order to better design a reliable message, they can also map out different kinds of personal information in their target’s network such as personal and business connections, employers, residence, and even recent online purchases. Once spear phishers gather enough personal information, they can create an email that appears to be from a trusted and real source that attracts their target’s attention. Due to the personalised communications, many people don’t pay attention and immediately click on a link or download a file. Unfortunately, this error could have severe effects including getting malware on your device or the theft of personal information. Also, machine learning algorithms may be used by more skilled attackers to filter out vast amounts of data and find the high-level targets they wish to focus on.
Types of spear phishing attacks
Although spear phishing is a type of phishing, there are other spear phishing sub-types that you should be aware of. Here are a few examples of spear phishing:
- Whale phishing: Also known as “whaling,” targets people who are exceptionally powerful or wealthy, including business executives. In a whale-phishing attack, therefore the target is a C-level executive, co-founder, or owner of the organisation. Because these targets frequently have access to funds or IT resources that lower-level employees can not access.
- Angler phishing: This type of spear phishing targets dissatisfied customers of a business on social media. The attackers act as representatives of the company, asking customers to provide them with sensitive data to offer help for their cases.
- Barrel phishing: Also known as double-barrel phishing, targets individuals by sending them two different emails. Usually, the initial email is secure, it doesn’t have any malicious software or fake links. It serves just as the lure used by attackers to gain trust. Once some level of trust has been gained, the attacker follows up with another email that contains a harmful attachment or link. Users are likely to provide their information to attackers as a result of these pressure methods, which endangers the safety of their data and business.
- Clone phishing: In a cloning attack, the attacker uses the exact message (text and images) of a reliable sender to trick users into giving out sensitive information. Some messages might mislead users to click a link to a website that the attacker controls. For example, you might get a confirmation email after you purchased something or paid a bill. However, the scammer will send you the exact message but replace the links or attachments with malware or a link to their own website.
How to prevent spear phishing?
If you are wondering how to avoid spear phishing, luckily, there are some tips that can help you to prevent falling victim to a spear phishing attack. If you implement some of them, the risks can be significantly decreased. Setting up a strong phishing protection strategy is the best approach to defend yourself from spear phishing assaults. But there are also several smaller steps you can take to safeguard against spear phishing attempts in addition.
1. Check the sender: A typical spear phishing technique is sending an email that appears to be from a well-known company or organisation. But the email address is slightly changed either the words/word order or just some of the letters are changed in a way that it looks like the real company’s name. For instance, the letters “r” and “n” in lowercase combination can at first glance resemble the letter “m”. Or “l” in lowercase looks the same as “i” in uppercase. This technique capitalises that people are often working rashly and don’t pay close attention to details. Therefore, it is important to check carefully the email address before interacting with the email in any way.
2. Assess the content: If you ever receive an email from someone you think you know that contains personal information about you, but is suspicious of its intent and content, as a best practice, check to see if the person actually sent the message to you. Keep in mind that even seemingly private information can be quickly accessible online. From public records and social media profiles, scammers can get addresses, phone numbers, family names, and even pet names. Furthermore, nowadays banks and other organisations or businesses do not ask for private information via email. Therefore, if that’s the case it’s advised to check the official website or contact the company directly before answering.
3. Keep your systems up-to-date: While malware may be sent by email, outdated software might allow them to get through the security and spread throughout your network. To create protection against potential spear-phishing assaults, it is crucial for both individual users and businesses to update their security software as soon as a new update is available.
4. Back up data: Your data can be well-protected from spear phishing attempts with backups. You can restore your data from the backup in case your computer gets hacked or becomes infected with a virus. Additionally, even if your primary copy gets lost, you’ll still have access to your data. Having a cloud-based backup solution, can help you to avoid expensive data loss and get your access back quickly.
5. Multi-factor authentication: Making it more challenging for attackers to steal your information is possible with multi-factor authentication (MFA). It’s more difficult for someone to hack into your account because you need to take more than one step to sign in your account (such as biometrics or a code sent to your phone). This way you can add additional security measures and lock private data more safely other than just a single password. Also, you’ll receive a real-time notification to authenticate the login, if someone tries to log in to your account.
6. Cyber security training: Especially at the business level, security awareness training is essential to give staff members the expertise to spot and avoid incoming assaults. This includes spear phishing training. Training on security awareness teaches employees how to defend against spear phishing assaults. It’s important to learn how to spot spear phishing emails, subject lines, and other communications that might be attempting to deceive you into giving out personal information. Above all, the best you can do is never click on any links in an email if you’re doubtful about it or send it to your IT department or another reliable source instead to confirm its reliability.
What to do if you are targeted by a spear phishing attack?
If you accidentally run into a spear phishing attack, you can still reduce the damage by following some easy steps. First and foremost, don’t start to panic! Keeping a clear mind will help you take the necessary actions without delay. If you discover the attack in time, enter no data at all and don’t give out any information at all. As soon as you can, delete the email, then disconnect from the internet. The threat of the virus spreading to other network devices is decreased by deleting the message and going offline. Use antivirus software to do a thorough scan of your computer to assist in preventing the spread of harmful malware. It’s also advised to modify your passwords straight away. You should suppose that your login information and password have been stolen. If possible the best is to change passwords on a separate device. Last but not least, inform the IT security staff. From then, your IT staff will handle it, including notifying other co-workers and the proper authorities about the assault.
Examples of spear phishing attacks
The number of spear-phishing attacks have risen significantly in recent years and of course with it the attacks have evolved to a more advanced level, becoming harder to detect and stop. These days there are several different methods attackers are trying to scam people to get personal or business information. However, the most common techniques are usually the following:
- A spear phisher sends an email to their target. That email may include suspicious links or attachments they will ask the target to open, downloading malicious virus or malware to their device.
- A scammer sends an email directing the target to a scam website that asks them to provide personal or confidential information such as PINs, account credentials, or access codes.
- A spear phisher acts as a friend, co-worker, boss, a brand or other trusted entity asking for access to any kinds of accounts like social media or usernames and passwords to gather information.
Best Software against phishing attacks
A phishing attack is a dangerous digital threat as your personal and business information can be stolen, or your device infected with malware. Nowadays, there are many excellent anti-phishing software available on the market to help users prevent falling victim to phishing attacks. In the following, we cover three award-winning companies that offer solutions for digital threats.
Bitdefender offers wide-range antivirus software which includes anti-phishing features as well. Its tool is one of the greatest anti-phishing tools available on the market due to its proactive malware scanning capability and user-friendly interface. It can identify dangers that have never been seen before. It closely monitors applications to stop them from causing any trouble. In order to prevent dangerous links from entering your systems, it examines every link on a page to find any malicious one. The fact that Bitdefender guarantees boot scanning each time you turn on your computer is its finest feature. The Total Security, Internet Security, Small Office Security or Antivirus Plus are all having the anti-phishing feature. These award-winning products provide protection for your personal data and online presence. Without affecting your device’s performance, your safety from digital threats is ensured.
Avast has excellent products for cyber security, privacy, and performance. Everyone with computer experience needs to be familiar with Avast Antivirus. It is a cost-free antivirus software providing basic protection for your devices. Anti-malware capability and anti-phishing tools are included with the antivirus software to identify malicious applications. If you need more extended protection Avast has subscription-based packages such as the Premium Security and the Ultimate. Avast products are also accessible for mobile devices which is beneficial because the mobile approach is one of the easiest entry points for phishing attempts. Avast can optimise your PC’s performance in addition to offering standard anti-virus protection. Also, it may guarantee file shredding to get rid of malware and viruses from your business networks.
AVG provides all-round antivirus software without slowing down your systems. The in-built anti-phishing tool protects your data through a six level security shield. Phishing and email protection from AVG scans for malicious attachments that can be harmful. Phishing attacks often originate from fake websites or even pop-up windows; these are checked by AVG additionally for authenticity. This helps stop you from visiting fake websites made by scammers. Phishing URLs are also blocked by AVG’s phishing prevention. The websites will be blocked if the software finds malware or phishing scams there. The basic protection the AVG Antivirus Free is available for everyone without any additional costs. The paid versions are AVG Internet Security and Ultimate offer additional security features like network and payment protection, multi-device coverage and firewall.
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There are several different phishing strategies in use today that target both individuals and corporations. Spear phishing is one of the most popular cyberattack techniques that employs malicious emails to target specific persons or organisations. This kind of phishing tries to steal important information, including login passwords, or infect the target’s device with malware. As this type of attack is more targeted and tailored, it’s harder to recognize and easier to fall victim to it. Nevertheless, by staying cautious, up-to-date, and following well-tried tips, you can avoid phishing attacks efficiently.