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How are Businesses Targeted by Spear Phishing Attacks Each Day?

A spear-phishing attack is an email or electronic communication scam that targets a specific individual, a group of people, or an organization. Like other phishing attacks, spear-phishing intends to gain unauthorized access to confidential information or cheat companies to get money by leveraging email as the medium.

However, one of the significant differences between phishing and spear phishing is that the latter isn’t random. Instead, it is focused and well-crafted with a much higher success probability than its generic counterpart. As a result, companies must remain extra careful about spear phishing attacks.

Accordingly, Alliant Cybersecurity, one of the US’s top cybersecurity companies, talks about the three standard spear-phishing techniques to increase general awareness about them.

Popular Spear Phishing Techniques – How Attackers Target Companies Though Spear Phishing Attacks

  1. Whaling Attacks

Whaling attacks are a common form of a spear-phishing attack. They aim to bait high-profile targets that include C-Suite executives, celebrities, or politicians and are highly customized to ensure they look authentic and hit the target well. They use social engineering techniques and methods like content-spoofing, email-spoofing, etc., to enter a highly confidential and critical environment to access or steal confidential information.

  1. Business Email Compromise

Known by its acronym, BEC, Business Email Compromise is also termed CEO Fraud. Now, why are they called CEO Fraud? These attacks access or spoof an email from a higher authority from a company, such as CFO, CTO, COO, etc., and then use it to access critical documents, confidential credentials, or ask for money from another employee. The message is articulated well enough to seem authentic, and adequately compelling for the victim to act on it.

Generally, BEC targets senior employees, trusted vendors, partners, associates, attorneys, high-level executives, etc. If a BEC attack proves successful, it can let the attacker access the target’s system, enjoy unobstructed access to the target’s credentials, and in some worst cases, cause financial or reputational damage to the enterprise.

  1. Clone Phishing

Another attack type in the spear-phishing category includes clone phishing. As the name suggests, clone phishing involves attackers creating an almost identical copy of a legitimate and valid message to con the victim.

Again, the email is so well and convincingly composed that the recipient doesn’t even slightly doubt that the email is unreal and that it is the onset of a potential spear-phishing attack. Additionally, the email is sent from a trustworthy email address, the content is valid, and often, it is something that the targeted individual expects to receive. It must be noted that the link or attachment contained in the message is a harmful substitute for the real link or attachment.

Usually, clone phishing involves cloned websites with a false domain, similar to a legitimate one, to con the target to provide the information the attackers intend to fetch. As a result, apart from technical competence, avoiding spear-phishing attacks requires companies to create awareness about the attacks, train employees to identify such attempts, and stay mindful of them to prevent them from being successful.

Some Common Examples of Spear Phishing

A few commonly found examples of spear-phishing include,

  • Emails containing a charity request, with a link directing you to a webpage to donate, but which could be malicious.
  • An emotional email, written with tears in eyes, etc., and asking you to give your account details to make a transfer, etc.
  • An email that informs you about the deactivation of the credentials of a particular account
  • A message informing you that your account might have been breached and asking you to follow a link and provide critical information to verify that you are the actual account holder.

Preventive Measures for Spear Phishing Attacks – How to Avoid Spear Phishing Instances

Let us now quickly run through some of the ways to prevent spear phishing attacks.

  1. Run awareness programs and train employees on spear-phishing attacks and techniques
  2. Use a two-factor or multi-factor authentication
  3. Strict enforcement of password management policies
  4. Update software regularly
  5. Deploy anti-phishing platforms designed for spear phishing
  6. Hire a professional cybersecurity company to employ the right proactive and reactive protocols

Need a Cybersecurity Expert to Prevent Spear Phishing Attacks? Partner with Alliant!

Houston-based Alliant Cybersecurity is one of the top cybersecurity companies in the US. The company offers proactive, reactive, and diagnostic cybersecurity solutions to ensure optimal security from cyber-attacks. With years of experience in helping companies avoid cyber-attacks, Alliant proves a prudent and sustainable cybersecurity partner. If you too need expert cybersecurity solutions, write to Alliant at [email protected].