What is Spear phishing?
Spear-phishing is a targeted attempt to steal sensitive information such as account credentials or financial information from a specific victim often for malicious reasons. This is achieved by acquiring personal details on the victim such as their friends, hometown, employer, locations they frequent, and what they have recently bought online.
Spear phishing is the act of sending and emails to specific and well-researched targets while purporting to be a trusted sender. The aim is to either infect devices with malware or convince victims to hand over information or money.
The main aim of a spear-phishing attack is either to obtain unauthorized access to sensitive data, whether this is intellectual property, financial data, trade, or military intelligence, or to get the recipient of the email to act on a command, whether this is to transfer money or share confidential data.
HOW DOES SPEAR-PHISHING WORK?
Spear-phishing works by targeting a specific individual or organization.
Attackers collect information from social media about potential targets, including their personal and professional relationships and other personal details. The attacker uses this information to craft a personalized message that looks and sounds authentic to convince the target to respond to the sender’s request. The sender may request that the user reply directly to the email or the message may include a malicious link or attachment that installs malware on the target's device or directs the target to a malicious website that is set up to trick them into giving sensitive information like passwords, account information or credit card information.
To increase success rates these messages often contain urgent explanations on 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. An attacker posing as a friend might ask for usernames and passwords for various websites, such as Facebook so that they would be able to access posted photos. In reality, the attackers will use that password or variations of it to access different websites that have confidential information such as credit card details or Social Security Numbers. Once criminals have gathered enough sensitive information they can access bank accounts or even create a new identity using their victim’s information. Spear-phishing can also trick people into downloading malware or malicious codes after people click on links or open attachments provided in messages.
The payload of a spear-phishing attack can be conventional malware, spyware or ransomware. But hackers also use the technique to extract confidential and commercially sensitive information such as personnel records, intellectual property or financial information.
A further driver for attacks is to gain access to IT systems and privilege escalation.
Attackers frequently target systems administrators and other professionals in order to gain the passwords and credentials to break into other systems.
Hackers might use something as simple as a spoof website to harvest victims’ user names and passwords.
Types of Spear Phishing Attacks:
How to Prevent Spear Phishing:
To prevent spear phishing scams, employees need to be aware of the threats such as the possibility of bogus emails landing in their inbox. Never clicking links in emails is an ironclad rule to preventing much of the damage phishing type attacks can create. That said, since spear phishing is a more sophisticated version of a plain old phishing attack, organizations will need to ensure their policies reference these more advanced tactics and implement stronger solutions to help educate employees to defend accordingly.