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Phishing is one of the most frustrating and prevalent threats we often face. All of us know what phishing is and how it works, but still, we get into this trap.

Phishing is a scam that involves cyber-attackers sending messages that impersonates as legitimate organizations and target thousands of organizations every day — the messages direct receivers to a bogus website that steals their confidential and personal information.

These attacks are increasing day by day. The PhishLabs report for 2019 found that the total phishing volume increases to 40.9% throughout 2018. Moreover, the Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report of 2019, also revealed that phishing is the top threat in all breaches investigated during the reporting period. 

Such attacks target a range of organizations, particularly financial service companies, cloud hosting firms, email, and online service providers. Researchers also revealed that 70% of attackers use a combination of hacking and phishing. Thus, phishing is a significant threat in today’s era.

Cyber-criminal goals are always the same; therefore, they’ve found several ways to launch an attack and compromise individuals’ privacy and sensitive information. In this regard, to aid our readers, we’ll explain frequent phishing attacks and how one should prevent such attacks from taking place. 

Six Common Phishing Attacks:

The increasing growth of phishing attacks poses a significant threat to all enterprises and firms. All organizations must know how to identify some of the most common phishing scams. Following is a list of six common types of phishing attacks along with useful tips on how organizations can defend themselves how you can protect your identity.

  • Email Phishing:

It is also known as deceptive phishing, which is the most common type of phishing scam. The attacker impersonates as a legal company in an attempt to steal an individual’s login credentials or personal data. These emails frequently use threats along with a sense of urgency to threaten users into doing what the attackers want.

Like for instance, PayPal scammers can send out an email attack that directs the recipients to click on a link to correct a discrepancy with their account. However, in reality, the link redirects them to a fake PayPal login page that collects victims’ login details and sends them to the attackers.

The success of email phishing relies on how closely the attack email resembles a piece of official correspondence from the exploited company. To avoid this, users must carefully inspect and analyze all the URLs to see if they redirect to an unsolicited or suspicious website. Moreover, they must also look for any generic salutations, grammatical errors, and spelling mistakes spread throughout the email. 

  • Spear Phishing:

Spear phishing usually targets business organizations. The impostors customize their attack emails with the target’s victim name, company, position, work phone number, and other vital information to trick the recipient into believing that they have some connection with the sender.

Here the goal of the attacker is the same as that in the email phishing. The attacker tricks the victim to click on a malicious URL or any email attachment so they can give away their data. Spear phishing is prevalent on social media sites like LinkedIn, where hijackers use multiple sources to craft a targeted attack email. It is often found that different social media platforms have more than 20% of methods to deliver malware over the internet other than websites. The cyber-criminals also earn approximately $3.5 billion by violating social media. Thus, it is imperative to maximize your social media safety. 

To defend against this type of scam, companies should conduct security awareness training programs. Employees should be taught not to publish either corporate or any other sensitive information on social media. Organizations should invest in solutions that examine inbound emails to know malicious emails and links. 

  • Vishing:

Although email has been a popular tool among the phishers but at times, they turn towards other media to conduct their attacks. One such type of attack is called vishing. The attack doesn’t involve sending an email but rather a phone call. An attacker can also penetrate such an attack by setting up a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) server to impersonate various entities to steal sensitive data of the individuals.

The vishing attacks have taken on different forums. Back in the previous month, for example, digital hackers had launched a vishing attack to steal the passwords of UK MPs and other parliamentary staff members. Also, another example is of an attack where vishers pretends to be as the head of a German company and transfer $243,000 in his account.

To prevent these attacks, individuals’ should not answer phone calls from unknown numbers. Also, avoid giving away any personal information over the phone and start using a caller ID app.

  • Whaling:

In these attacks, the main target is the company executives and CEOs. Although the end goal of whaling is the same as any other kind of phishing attack, the technique tends to be a lot trickier.

Tricks like fake links and malicious URLs are not useful in this situation because criminals are attempting to intimate the senior staff of the enterprise. These scams involve bogus tax returns are the typical variety of whaling. The criminals value tax forms as they include a piece of reliable information like address, name, bank account information, and social security numbers.

To combat the threats of whaling, organizations must make it mandatory for all the company personnel, including the executives, to participate in the security awareness training programs. Also, organizations consider using multi-factor authentication (MFA) channels into their financial authorization process. By doing so, no one can authorize payments through email, and they will be at the safe hand.

  • Smishing:

Vishing is not the only type of phishing that digital attackers can penetrate via a phone. They can also conduct another typical attack known as smishing. In this attack, the attacker leverages malicious text messages to trick users into giving away their personal information or compel them to click on a malicious link.

Smishers poses various entities to get what they want. In February 2019, Nokia warned its users to be aware of a smishing campaign in which the digital attackers sent out text messages informing the users that they had won a car or money as a prize. They then asked the recipients to send over the money as a registration payment for their new vehicle.

Individuals can protect themselves against these attacks by searching unknown phone numbers and by calling the company named in the messages to clear their doubts.

  • Pharming:

In pharming, the attacker often tricks a DNS server into a catching bogus entry for a domain name, usually for an e-commerce site. When a user types the domain name for that particular site into a browser, the DNS server provides a cached record of a malicious website. In this way, the user is pharmed by DNS cache poisoning.

A pharmer targets a DNS server and modifies the IP address linked with an alphabetical website name. It means that an attacker can redirect the users towards a malicious website of their own choice. 

Organizations must encourage the employees to enter the login details only on HTTPS-protected sites. They should also implement anti-virus software on all corporate devices and apply virus database updates regularly. Moreover, they must ensure to stay on top of all security updates issued by a reliable Internet Service Provider (ISP).

Horizontal hacker banner | Photo: macrovector via Freepik

Phishing is evolving each day to adopt new forms and techniques. Hopefully, by now, organizations can quickly identify some of the most common phishing attacks. The organizations need to conduct security awareness training programs so their employees and senior staff members can stay protected from phishing attacks. 

Now that you are aware of common Phishing attacks, why not install anti-virus software to protect against future attacks? 

Author Bio: Rebecca James is an enthusiastic cybersecurity journalist, a creative team leader and editor of PrivacyCrypts. You can find Rebecca on Twitter.

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