Last summer, CSO published a very insightful article on the concept of spear phishing. This is a problem that even many experienced cybersecurity experts are still getting used to.
Cybersecurity is becoming an increasingly important aspect of running an everyday business. Recent trends indicate a huge increase in hacked and breached data from sources like mobile and IoT devices, both of which are highly common in the workplace.
Studies show that 65% of hackers use spear-phishing as the primary method of breaching consumer data. In order to maximize your protection against these groups, it is important to be informed on what spear phishing is and how you can recognize the signs, including how you can avoid being duped by these types of attacks.
In this blog, we’re covering what is spear phishing, preventative measures, shocking statistics, and more. Here’s everything you need to know about this common hacker tactic.
Spear Phishing vs. Phishing
Spear phishing is like phishing. It is a type of scam that is designed to dupe recipients into unwittingly handing over valuable information that would otherwise be kept confidential. This information can include anything from account credentials to customer lists. Some examples of spear phishing or phishing attempts include:
- Links (change your password, click for discount, etc.)
- Impersonations of someone the recipient knows
- Requests for sensitive data
If the user were to click a link or download an attachment that contains harmful malware, they would risk exposing their computer system to the harmful virus sent by the attacker. Hackers use this information to access the victim’s data on their server or local node.
So, how does spear phishing differ from traditional phishing attacks? Hackers send phishing emails to countless recipients. These emails are mostly sent at random. The vast majority of recipients won’t reply, but hackers know that they can orchestrate a successful attack if they view it as a numbers game. On the other hand, spear phishing emails are more targeted, designed to get a single recipient to respond or interact. Hackers use social media to target and mimic the identity of a single individual within the organization.
Some public information that an attacker may use to try and trick someone with a spear phishing scam include:
- Recipient’s specialty
- Role in an organization
- Place of residence
- Taxpayer identifying number and other documents
- Public social media information
How to Protect Against Spear Phishing
Anyone can be a victim this heinous attack. Because of their personalized nature, it sometimes may be difficult to determine whether an email is legitimate or a scam. Here are a few ways you can ensure your computer system is secure:
- Keep your systems up-to-date with the latest security patches
- Encrypt any sensitive company information you have: This includes every local drives, data that is stored on the cloud, questions to reset passwords, passwords, internet history (it is always a good idea to use a VPN or mask the real IP address), all external storage drives, and of course all important files
- Implement multi-factor authentication wherever possible: Requires two pieces of identification such as a password and email to ensure the user is legitimate.
- Educate yourself and your company on spear phishing tactics and how to stay protected.
- Make sure the source is legitimate: Before interacting with a suspicious email, look up the address, sender name, and other information provided.
If you are looking to protect data on a larger scale, such as within a company, there are several different email protection solutions that you should consider implementing. Here are a few:
- Proofpoint Essentials: Market-leading email security gateway and the world’s largest email security vendor.
- Mimecast Secure Email Gateway: One of the most fully-featured email security gateways. Mimecast is one of the leading vendors in terms of threat research.
- Barracuda Essentials: Feature-rich email security system without breaking the bank.
- IRONSCALES: Provides fast, powerful protection against threats within the email inbox. Uses AI security tools, to identify malicious emails and remove them from users’ inboxes automatically.
- Cisco Cloud Email Security: Massive research team searching for email threats offers a strong defense against business email phishing attacks.
- Hornetsecurity: Offers strong spam filtering effectiveness and is easy to use, prioritizing fast email processing.
- Sophos Email Security: Email security powered by cutting edge technology that has a focus on threat protection.
- Microsoft Advanced Threat Protection: Works natively with Office 365, offering a range of features including enforcing anti-phishing policies and anti-malware protection.
- Forcepoint Email Security: Offers businesses strong threat protection and has a range of features for protection such as real time threat detection, powered by machine learning.
- SpamTitan: Email security solution that blocks email threats from reaching user inboxes, primarily targeted towards businesses, schools, and colleges.
- Symantec Email Security Gateway Cloud: Features threat isolation and real-time threat protection, spam filtering, and detailed reporting on the types of threats that face your business.
Spear phishing and phishing aren’t the only threats to your company security. The internet continues to grow daily, and with it so does threats. Stay informed on other ways to keep your company secure from online hackers. Ensure your employee and company information remain safe from the wrong hands.