Phishing is a form of cyber-attack that involves sending deceitful communication that appears to come from a well-known or trustworthy source. The emails appear to be from a company you conduct business with, such as a bank, or a website you have purchased items from in the past.
The goal of phishing is to steal sensitive data such as credit card and login information, or, sometimes, to install malware on the target’s computer, which steals confidential information and sends it back to the phisher.
To avoid falling victim these types of phishing attacks, it helps to be aware of the different kinds of phishing scammers and hackers often use.
1. Deceptive Phishing (aka. Traditional Phishing)
Traditional or deceptive phishing refers to any attack by which the attackers pretend to be from a real company in an attempt to steal the victim’s personal information or login credentials. These emails often try to scare the victims to get them to do their bidding by using threats. The email messages are usually about verifying account information, requiring users to re-enter their information.
However, once they click on a link included in the email, they are redirected to a bogus website. The fraudsters are then able to get the user’s information. These types of phishing are especially troublesome, since emails are sent to as many people as possible in the hope that at least some of them will fall into the trap.
2. Email Spoofing
This type of phishing is used to get data from users without their knowledge and is done in different ways. One of the most common is where the attacker uses an email with a familiar email address or username. They can also impersonate the identity of an organization to get unsuspecting employees to share company data. Another way they do this is by sending emails pretending to be employees of the same company and asking for essential data.
How then can one prevent these types of phishing? The best approach is to be extremely suspicious of emails that request your personal details. For instance, you should carefully scrutinize all emails you receive to verify their authenticity, and if they contain links, hover over them to see if the address is genuine or not. For extra protection, there are managed software solutions that are highly effective in securing your e-mail network from spoofing.
3. Spear Phishing
This is the most common type of attack used on individuals and organizations. Spear phishing attacks are typically tailored to a specific victim. These attacks pose a significant risk as the attackers use information obtained from the victim’s social media profiles, company website and any other public information sources. A phisher sends an email that looks legitimate to trick the victim into responding. In most cases, these emails appear to originate from a trusted source, such as a business or a friend.
The risk the victim faces when they respond to such emails or messages includes malware, credit card fraud, or identity theft. To protect employees from such attacks, companies should conduct training sessions on security awareness. Users should be discouraged from publishing personal, sensitive, or corporate information online.
Cybersecurity measures should also be enhanced to analyze all incoming emails for malware or malicious email attachments.
Smishing is a refined form of a phishing attack. The phisher attempts to steal your information using your mobile phone or other device using text messages. The attacker usually sends the victim a text message pretending to be from a trusted, legitimate company or source.
The message could claim that the victim has won a prize and is required to click on a link, call a number or respond to the text message with specific information. If the victim does any of these, the phisher could get their personal information and use it fraudulently.
Whaling is very similar to spear phishing, the only difference being that the target victim is highly targeted in a whaling attack. The senior staff in organizations are the main targets of a whaling attack. The phisher targets senior management executives and tricks them into divulging their email account details.
Should they succeed, the entire organization could be negatively exposed. The CEO or other senior staff are usually the key players in an organization. In phishing terms, they are referred to as “whales,” hence the name “whaling.” All employees should be trained on how to identify and ignore such emails to prevent whaling attacks on the company.
This type of attack involves the phisher changing the IP address of a website and redirects it to a hoax website. Since most people can now tell the difference between a legitimate email and a phishing one, some attackers are using sophisticated methods to get to their victims. Using HTTPS-protected websites when entering your personal data online goes a long way in protecting you from this kind of attack.
Since phishers keep coming up with creative ways of defrauding their victims, the best way to prevent these attacks is to educate the users and company employees so they can watch out for suspicious emails or messages.