What Is Spear Phishing in Cyber Security?

Spear phishing is an email or email scam that targets a specific individual, organization, or business. Spear phishing is a phishing attack that targets a specific individual or organization, usually via malicious email. Spear phishing is a malicious email spoofing attack targeting a specific organization or individual to gain unauthorized access to sensitive information.

In cyber security, spear phishing is the process of sending targeted messages soliciting personal information to users who have already been chosen. Spear phishing is more likely to succeed than normal phishing because it tailors a message to the recipient and seems more legitimate.

Spear phishing attacks are targeted at a specific victim and the messages are modified to be targeted specifically at that victim, presumably coming from an entity with which they are familiar and containing personal information. Spear phishing attackers try to get as much personal information as possible about their victims so that the emails they send look legitimate and increase their chances of deceiving recipients.

To increase the chance of success, these messages often contain urgent explanations as to why phishing attackers need sensitive information. Targeted phishers target people with emails exclusively intended for the victim or organization.

How Phishers Identify Their Targets

Targeted phishers study their targets carefully, so the attack appears to be coming from trusted senders in the lives of the targets. Targeted phishers often prey on their victims through targeted emails, social media, direct messaging apps, and other online platforms. Spear phishing is a social engineering attack in which a criminal disguised as a confidant tricks the target into clicking a link in a fake email, text message, or instant message.

Spear phishing is commonly used in targeted attack campaigns to gain access to a person’s account or to impersonate a specific person, such as a senior employee or persons involved in confidential transactions within a company.

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. Phishing is a broader term for any attempt to trick victims into sharing sensitive information such as passwords, usernames, and credit card information for malicious reasons.

Vishing (voice phishing) involves using a phone to trick victims into handing over sensitive information rather than email. In a vishing attack, attackers call their target and use social engineering tactics to manipulate them into providing credentials or financial information.

Whaling Is a Type of Spear Phishing

Whaling attacks are also tailored to the target and use the same social engineering, email spoofing, and content spoofing methods to gain access to sensitive data. Whaling attacks are always directed at individuals, often using titles, locations and phone numbers obtained through a company website, social media or media. Whaling uses the same ad hoc tactics as spear phishing attacks, except that the attackers specifically target senior executives to expose financial and confidential information.

Spear phishing attacks targeting senior executives, often referred to as whale phishing attacks, typically involve attackers attempting to impersonate a company’s CEO or someone of equal importance, with the intent to use an advantage to force victims to pay or share information. .

Not to be confused with whaling, which is a phishing attempt aimed at senior executives, CEO scams can be considered a type of spear phishing, as cybercriminals impersonate senior executives to convince an employee to comply with an urgent request or reveal important information. data. Spear phishing is a narrowly targeted phishing technique in which cybercriminals or phishers pose as a trusted source in order to convince victims to divulge sensitive data, personal information, or other sensitive data.

While regular phishing campaigns have a large number of relatively ineffective targets, spear phishing targets specific targets using specially crafted emails for the intended victim. While mass phishing primarily involves the use of pre-made automated kits to collect credentials in bulk using fake login pages for normal banking or email transactions, or the distribution of ransomware or cryptographic malware, spear-phishing attacks are more complex.

The Methods of a Spear Phishing Attack

A phishing attack is designed to trick a person into doing the attacker’s job instead of trying to gain access and run malware by exploiting a vulnerability in an organization’s cyber defenses. Most types of phishing use some form of technical deception to make a link in an email (and the fake website it leads to) look like it belongs to a fake organization.

For example, a phishing email might claim to be from PayPal and ask the recipient to verify their account information by clicking on an attached link, which results in malware being installed on the victim’s computer. However, in the case of spear phishing, the source of the email is likely to be an individual in the recipient’s company, usually someone in power or someone the target knows personally.

The text message may contain a phone number that the target user can dial or a link to an attacker-controlled website that hosts malware or phishing pages. Messages in phishing emails, text messages or phone calls are generic and sent to a large group of individuals or organizations in the hope of increasing the chances of catching a victim.

Once the subset of high-value targets is quarantined, the targeted phishers send an email that is enough to convince the target to open an attachment containing embedded malware that captures personal information. The target phisher will create an email and possibly even a domain name similar to the source. The targeted phishers impersonate and create private messages for their victims.

Alternative Spear Phishing Methods

Some targeted phishers impersonate legitimate companies to collect information about specific individuals and slowly expand the scam to create an IP address and domain reputation to avoid email security software. If one employee falls for the ruse of a targeted phisher, the attacker can disguise themselves as that person and use social engineering techniques to gain additional access to sensitive data.

In a targeted phishing email, these small details, available for free on the Internet, can help an attacker add names, places, or terms to their email that have sufficient validity to convince an otherwise savvy email recipient to click on a malicious link.

As the name suggests, spear phishing is a form of phishing that is very popular as 65% of all known cybercriminal groups appear to use this tailor-made approach to gather incriminating information for victims. This is a powerful phishing variant, a malicious tactic that uses email, social media, instant messaging, and other platforms to trick users into divulging personal information or taking actions that result in network compromise, data loss, or financial loss.

Gene Botkin

Gene is a graduate student in cybersecurity and AI at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. Ongoing philosophy and theology student.

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