What is Spear Phishing and how to prevent it?

Spear phishing is an email targeted towards a specific individual, organization, or business. Spear-phishing is not like regular phishing attacks, these attempts are not typically initiated on a random person by random hackers, but are more likely to be conducted on known targets for financial gain, trade secrets or military information. Apart from this, cybercriminals may also intend to install malware on a targeted user’s computer using the Spear phishing fraud.

Not even individuals, but sometimes, government-funded hackers, directly or indirectly are behind these spear phishing attacks. Cybercriminals do the same intending to resell confidential data to make huge money depending upon the sensitivity of the data.

Spear phishing goals are just like the normal phishing goals, but the hacker first gathers personal information about the target to personalize the spear phishing attack so that they look as genuine as possible. If you want to know more, Spear phishing defined easily on this website.

Instead of sending the phishing emails to a lot of people, the spear phishing attacker targets a small group or most likely an individual. By limiting the victim group, it becomes easier for the attacker to include personal information more accurately and make malicious emails seem more trustworthy.

To increase success rates, these messages often contain urgent explanations of why they need sensitive information. Victims are asked to open a malicious attachment or click on a link that takes them to a spoofed website where they are asked to provide passwords, account numbers, PINs, and access codes.

Examples of successful attacks

In 2015, independent security researcher and journalist Brian Krebs reported that Ubiquiti Networks Inc. lost $46.7 million to hackers who started the attack with a spear-phishing campaign. The hackers were able to impersonate communications from executive management at the networking firm and performed unauthorized international wire transfers.

In another attack, health insurer Anthem Inc. reported that it suffered a massive breach in which 80 million members were affected. According to reports, attackers executed a sophisticated targeted attack to gain unauthorized access to Anthem’s IT system and obtain personal information records stored within.

How to prevent Spear Phishing

In an enterprise, security-awareness training for employees and executives alike will help reduce the spear-phishing email attacks.

If an organization, such as your bank, sends you a link, launch your browser and go directly to the bank’s site instead of clicking on the link itself. Do not visit the links mentioned in the emails.

Use logic while dealing with the emails that ask you for the personal information link usernames or passwords. A real business will not ask you for your username or password in an email. Never provide your credit card information when asked in an email until unless you are 100% sure about the source.

Any form of phishing can ultimately lead to the compromise of sensitive data. If neglected, a company could succumb to a targeted attack, which could result in data breaches, as seen in notable incidents like the ones that affected JP Morgan, Home Depot, and Target—all of which were attributed to spear phishing.

Your awareness and presence of mind can only save yours from a spear phishing attack.

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