What is Spear-Phishing?
We live in a fast-paced world that becomes more digitally progressive as each day passes. Unfortunately, cybercrimes, too, have become more advanced along with technological advancement. Spear-phishing is a type of phishing- a common cyber-attack that affects around 75% of businesses around the globe every year. The first step to protecting yourself and your business against any cybercrime is awareness. To help you with that, our experts at Perth have created an extensive guide on what spear-phishing is and how you can combat it. Read on.
What is Spear-Phishing?
Spear-phishing is a common type of cyber-attack in which the aggressor makes a targeted attempt to steal sensitive information from a specific victim – hence the name ‘spear’ phishing. The aim is to collect protected data such as credit card details, account credentials etc., for malicious reasons.
How does Spear-phishing work?
In spear-phishing, the attacker will first do background research on the victims and acquire their personal details, mostly through social media sites. They collect the email addresses, locations and details of friends so they can disguise themselves as trustworthy acquaintances or authoritative agencies.
Then, they will then send an “urgent” mail or a message with embedded links. When the victims click on this link, they’ll be asked to enter their passwords, account numbers, PINs, credit card details or other sensitive data. The attackers will then be able to access the victim’s social media accounts and bank accounts and can even commit identity fraud using this information. Often clicking on links in spear-phishing messages lead to downloading of malware on your device.
Spear Phishing v/s Phishing – What is the difference
Since both phishing and spear-phishing include acquiring confidential data through malicious methods online, it’s easy to get confused between the two.
Phishing is a broader term associated with cyber-attacks that affect a large group of people at the same time. In phishing attacks, the attackers pose as an authentic organisation and mail, message or call masses of people trying to trick anyone into giving up their personal information. The contents of the mail or call are often the same with no personalisation. Here, the aim is to contact as many targets as possible so that eventually, some of them would fall prey to the attacks.
However, in the case of spear-phishing, the attacks are aimed at one organisation or individual – the messages are specific, trying to feed off the vulnerability of the target. Spear-phishing attacks often focus on the biggest, most influential targets of an organisation, such as the CEO or senior managers. Hyper-specific phishing attacks like these are also called “whaling”.
How to prevent Spear-phishing?
The common methods for the prevention of cyber-attacks are applicable here too. Let’s refresh.
1. Awareness is key. As already mentioned above, awareness is foremost in countering any type of cyber-attack. Always remember to avoid clicking on links sent by unfamiliar accounts. Conduct and attend cybersecurity awareness training for your employees, which involves real-life inspired simulations. Do tests in your organisation by sending spear-phishing emails and check how many of your employees can effectively identify and report them.
2. Be careful of what you post on the internet. Go through your social media accounts and check if you’ve provided too much personal information. Remove details that scammers can use against you. Configure your privacy settings so not everyone can see sensitive information.
3. Use strong passwords. Sometimes, we tend to use variations of the same password for all social media accounts. This can put your accounts at a high risk since it’ll be easy to hack all your accounts if the attacker can figure out one password. So, use smart, unique passwords for each account. Passwords that have random phrases, numbers, symbols and letters are preferred. Also, avoid saving passwords on your personal devices. Use multi-factor authentication for an extra layer of protection.
4. Keep up with the updates. If you receive notifications on new updates, update your system right away. All the major system updates will include security updates that will help protect you from common cyber-attacks.
5. Pause and think. If a friend or any organisation emails you asking for sensitive personal information, first check if the email address is one you’ve replied to in the past. Keep in mind that authentic organisations will never request your usernames and passwords. When you receive such emails, notify your IT support team. Be extra careful if the mail or message creates a sense of urgency. If in doubt, always call up the person or organisation to verify the authenticity of the message.
Spear-phishing causes the loss of millions every year around the globe. It is high time you knew what exactly spear-phishing attacks are and how you can avoid falling prey to them. Through awareness and safe practices, you’ll be able to protect yourself and your business. If you need help learning more about spear-phishing or figuring out a more effective cybersecurity plan, don’t hesitate to contact us or reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Computing Australia offers quick and efficient solutions for all your digital troubles.
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Phishing – Phishing is a type of cyber-attack in which attackers trick victims into giving up sensitive data by posing as authentic organisations or familiar individuals.
Whaling – It is a type of phishing attack that targets high-profile employees of an organisation.
Multi-factor authentication – It is an authentication method where the user must provide two or more evidence factors to gain access to an application, website, network or any digital resource.