What is Spear Phishing?
- 29 Jul, 2019
Spear phishing is a scam targeted towards a specific individual or an organization. Although it is often intended to steal data for malicious purposes, in some cases, cybercriminals may also intend to install malware on a targeted computer.
This is how it works: An email arrives apparently from a trustworthy source, but instead it leads the recipient to a bogus website full of malware. These emails often use clever tactics to get victims' attention. For example, there can be phishing scams where the emails appear to be from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
In a targeted attack, attackers have a certain level of expertise and have sufficient resources to execute their schemes over a long period of time. In cases where the breach resulted from a targeted attack, it is vital to know that attackers can adapt and improve their attacks to counter the victim’s defenses.
The cybercriminal utilize various social engineering techniques that leverage recent events, work-related issues, and other areas of interest to catch their victim’s attention. Techniques like the use of backdoors, software exploits, and spear phishing are the most common methods used to gain information.
Phishing and spear phishing are nearly similar techniques but they are not to be confused. Phishing is a generally exploratory attack that targets a broader audience, while spear phishing is a specific targeted version of phishing.
They are different in the sense that phishing is a more straightforward attack—once information such as bank credentials, is stolen, the attackers have pretty much what they intended to get. In spear phishing, the successful theft of credentials or personal information is often only the beginning of the attack, because it's only used to gain access to the target network—a move that ultimately leads to a targeted attack.
How does Spear Phishing work?
Spear phishing focuses on specific individuals or employees within an organization and analyze their social media accounts such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to specifically customize accurate and compelling emails. These emails can contain infected attachments and links. Once the link or the attachment is opened, it executes the malware that leads the victim to a specific website. Once the victim is redirected to one such website, the attackers can then establish their networks and move forward with the attack.
Any form of phishing can lead to the compromise of sensitive data. If neglected, a company could fall for a targeted attack, which could result in data breaches.
Defending Against Spear Phishing
As emails are the most common entry point for such targeted attacks, it is important to secure this area against spear phishing attacks. Employee education is pivotal to counter different phishing techniques. Training employees to spot misspellings, odd vocabulary, or any other indicators of suspicious mails could prevent a potential spear phishing attack.Additionally, enterprises need a layered security solution that provides network administrators the visibility, insight, and control needed to reduce the risk of such targeted attacks regardless of vector of choice.