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One of the most common threats to business and individual systems is phishing. This form of hacking is well known and many users have educated themselves on the more traditional methods used by hackers. This has forced hackers to come up with different phishing techniques, and one of the methods that is causing problems is spear phishing.
Spear phishing is a specialized type of phishing that instead of targeting a mass number of users, as normal phishing attempts, targets specific individuals or groups of individuals with a commonality e.g., an office.
Generally a hacker will first pick a target and then try to learn more about the related people. This could include visiting a website to see what a company does, who they work with, and even the staff. Or they could try hacking a server in order to get information.
Once they have some sort of information, usually a name, position, address, and even information on subscriptions, the hacker will develop an email that looks similar to one that another organization might send e.g., a bank. Some hackers have been known to create fake email accounts and pose as a victim’s friend, sending emails from a fake account.
These emails are often similar to official correspondence and will always use personal information such as addressing the email to you directly instead of the usual ‘dear sir or madam’. The majority of these emails will request some sort of information or talk about an urgent problem.
Somewhere in the email will be a link to the sender’s website which will look almost exactly like the real thing. The site will usually ask you to input personal information e.g., an account number, name, address, or even passwords. If you went ahead and followed this request then this information would be captured by the hacker.
From previous attack cases and reports, the majority of spear phishing attacks are finance related, in that the hacker wants to gain access to a bank account or credit card. Other cases include hackers posing as help desk agents looking to gain access to business systems.
Should someone fall for this tactic, they will often see personal information captured and accounts drained or even their whole identity stolen. Some spear phishing attacks aren’t after your identity or money, instead clicking on the link in the email will install malicious software onto a user’s system.
We are actually seeing spear phishing being used increasingly by hackers as a method to gain access to business systems. In other words, spear phishing has become a great way for people to steal trade secrets or sensitive business data.
Like most other types of phishing related emails, spear phishing attempts can be easy to block. Here are five tips on how you can avoid falling victim to them.
If you are looking to learn more about spear phishing or any other type of malware and security threat, get in touch.
Published on 8th January 2014 by Jeanne DeWitt.