What Is Spear Phishing?

Because your business relies so heavily on email to communicate internally and externally, protecting your messages—both inbound and outbound—is critical. With the number of online threats increasing daily, now’s the time to safeguard your company’s email.

A relatively new wrinkle to the all-too-familiar phishing attacks, spear phishing is an email scam targeted toward a specific individual, business, or organization. Although often intended to steal data for malicious purposes, cybercriminals could also use this con to install malware on the target’s computer. Regardless of intention, if executed properly, a spear phishing ploy is bad news for your company.

How Are Spear Phishing Attacks Performed?

Here’s a general rundown of how spear phishing scams work:

  • An email arrives in a colleague’s inbox, seemingly from a trustworthy source.
  • Unfortunately, the message leads the unsuspecting recipient to a bogus website full of malware. (Spear phishing emails often use clever tactics to get the victim’s attention, so succumbing to the hoax is a common mistake.)
  • Once the hackers gain access to your company’s confidential data, they often sell it to governments and private entities.

These cybercriminals utilize tailored approaches and social engineering techniques to effectively personalize messages and websites used in their scams. As a result, even high-ranking individuals within businesses, such as top executives, can fall victim to opening emails they thought were legitimate. All it takes is a single slip-up to enable online fraudsters to steal the data they need in order to attack your company’s networks.

According to a March report on spear phishing from cybersecurity firm Barracuda Networks, these attacks are frequently researched in advance and intended to capture data, such as login credentials or other highly sensitive information. Analyzing 360,000 emails that involved spear phishing over a three-month period, the company’s researchers found that 83% of these attacks involve brand impersonation of companies users know and trust.1

Moreover, to increase success rates, spear phishing messages often contain urgent explanations on why sensitive information is needed. Victims are usually asked to open a malicious attachment or click on a link that takes them to a spoofed website where active passwords, account numbers, PINs, or access codes are requested. A frightening and sobering thought for employers everywhere.

In terms of the biggest threat to your company, Barracuda’s report noted 70% of spear phishing attacks it saw in the business email compromise category attempted to manipulate victims with language designed to “establish rapport or a sense of urgency,” including by using “request,” “follow up,” “urgent,” or “important” in the subject line. This kind of social manipulation is “becoming the key ‘attack vector’ in cybersecurity attacks.”2

How to Fight Spear Phishing

Since spear phishing attacks are becoming more difficult to detect, protecting your business email is even more paramount nowadays. Traditional security usually doesn’t stop these scams because they’re so cleverly customized. One employee mistake can have serious consequences for your business. With stolen data, fraudsters can reveal commercially sensitive intel, forever damaging your company’s brand. In addition, spear phishing attacks can deploy malware to hijack computers, organizing them into enormous networks (botnets) that can be used for denial of service attacks.

To fight spear phishing scams, employees need to be aware of the threats, such as the possibility of bogus messages landing in their inbox. It’s a simple answer, but informed employees are the first line of defense in combatting malicious online attacks. Besides education, technology that focuses on email security is necessary.

The Delivery Center Solution

Thankfully, email security is where MxToolbox shines. With our Delivery Center product, your business gains the insight needed to ensure messages have been delivered to customers. In addition, the Delivery Center service allows you to monitor email delivery information unlike any other option in the industry. This platform also helps thwart malicious attacks such as spear phishing, which cybersecurity experts say are on the rise. Make sure your business stays protected from various online threats.

1, 2 Gizmodo, Privacy and Security. https://gizmodo.com/spear-phishing-attacks-are-on-the-rise-security-firm-s-1833455812

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