With the rapid advancements in technologies and digitalization, the scale and potential of cyber attacks are also growing exponentially. One of the most popular cyber attacks is the phishing attack, which targets the victim’s personal or employee information, such as login credentials and credit card numbers. As per the FBI IC3 report, phishing attacks almost doubled from 2019 to 2020. Similarly, the 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) by Verizon highlighted that 43% of last year’s breaches were due to phishing or/and pretexting. In this blog, we will have a closer look at what is phishing, its types, and some basic preventive measures.
What is Phishing?
Phishing is a type of cyber-attack that uses tactics like deceptive emails, text messages, and well crafted fake websites to steal sensitive personal and corporate information from the victim.
The goal of a phishing attack is to trick the victim into giving up confidential personal information, such as login credentials, social security number, date of birth, address, etc. Afterward, the attackers use the stolen information to do identity theft, unauthorized purchases, stealing of funds, etc. Similarly, they can use the login credentials of the victim to attempt to penetrate the person’s work network and conduct bigger damage.
Why phishing attacks are so successful? Its because the attackers make the phishing email or fake website look legitimate or familiar to the targeted victim. For example, you might receive an email with the address [email protected] instead of [email protected] and ask you to update your login credentials. Similarly, an email might contain a link to a website with the URL “paypal.net” instead of “paypal.com”, while the website looks like an exact replica of the original one.
Common types of Phishing Attacks
With the growing cyber-attack scale, the types of phishing attacks have also increased. Some of the prominent types of phishing attacks are as follow:
Phishing emails stand as the most common type of phishing attack. In this attack, a legitimate-looking email is sent to multiple targets, convincing them to update their password, verify their account, update personal information, or do other activities. The emails are usually made to look urgent and seem to be sent from a legitimate source, such as customer service of PayPal, Gmail, etc. Lets also not forget the emails from the deceased wealthy prince in another country.
Another type of phishing attack is attempting to impersonate the CEO, or another executive, where attackers send emails to employees making it seem as if it has been sent from the CEO, HR department, or a colleague. The email may trick the recipient to send tax information, confirm an e-transfer, send funds, etc.
In a website phishing attack, a well-written phishing email convinces the recipient to click the link given in it. Once the target clicks the link, it is taken to a familiar but fake website (such as outlook.me.com instead of outlook.com) that would look exactly the same as the original one. Afterward, the person is asked to verify the account by typing in login credentials or other similar details.
Spear phishing is an advanced form of phishing where attackers send a more personalized email or message to a specific individual of an organization, to steal login credentials or other personal data, or even attach a malicious document to the email. For example, a recipient might receive an email from a so-called marketing director to log in with company credentials to view the document.
Mobile phishing involves sending fake SMS, voice mail, social media messages, or similar other scam messages that might trick the recipients to believe that their account is expiring or closed, or to check out something of interest. This way, they can steal personal data or install malware on the mobile.
The growing digital advancements not only help us be more productive and advance with technology, but they also empower attackers to come up with new phishing tactics every time.
How to Prevent Phishing Attacks?
Phishing attacks are here to stay and the only way out is to be smart and identify them before being compromised. Following are some of the preventive measures that an organization can practice:
- Educate employees with regular training sessions on how to detect and avoid phishing emails and other cyber-attacks.
- Enforce a strict password policy. Employees should change passwords frequently while the same password must not be used repeatedly with other accounts.
- Set up a spam filter that can detect phishing messages.
- Ensure that your systems are up-to-date with the latest security patches.
- Practice two-factor authentication for logging into sensitive applications.
- Conduct penetration testing to test the efficiency of your current security measures.
- Encrypt all business-sensitive information.
The scale of phishing attacks is growing exponentially with every passing year and it is projected to follow the same pattern in the future to come. Phishing might be a difficult area to tackle considering the different types it has evolved into. But if you focus on your company’s IT security, ensure up-to-date systems with proper employees security training, then you will be in a better position to resist such attacks.