What is Spear Phishing?
Spear phishing is a scam where hackers send emails pretending to be someone else. They pretend to be friends, colleagues, business associates or family members asking you to click on a link or download a file. The link takes you to a fake website where you are asked to enter your login details. Once you enter these details, the hacker has access to your account.
If you receive an email from someone claiming to be a bank or financial institution, it could be a phishing attempt. Hackers will often try to trick people into giving them personal information by sending emails that look like they come from a trusted source. You do not want these cybercriminals to get your Social Security numbers, account numbers or any other information that can be used to steal something from you.
What is the Difference Between Phishing and Spear Phishing?
Phishing is an attempt to acquire sensitive information like usernames, passwords, credit card details, and more by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an email or other electronic messages. Phishing is often done at a high volume with the hopes that the message fools a few people. In contrast, spear phishing is an attack that attempts to trick a particular user into revealing their credentials by impersonating someone they know and trust. Someone who hacks into a friend's online profile could send a spear phishing attempt through Facebook Messenger or an Instagram message.
How to defend against spear phishing attacks
Businesses and their employees can make it more difficult for spear phishers to execute a successful attack using both technology and employee education. Below are a number of common sense ways to thwart these attacks.
Limit the amount of personal information shared on social media and other websites.
Training employees not to click on links in emails, as well as identifying suspicious emails by hovering the cursor over the link to see that the URL matches the link's anchor text and the email's stated destination.
Often contacting the sender of the message using a different communications channel to confirm the request can identify a spear phishing email.
Use of analytics software to assess at least 12 months of company inbound email history inspects email content, tracks suspicious email traffic to specific users or user areas, and evaluates user behavior with emails. By looking at historical data, companies can determine how to improve security.
Security awareness training for employees and executives can help reduce the likelihood of a successful spear phishing attack. This training typically educates employees on how to spot phishing emails based on suspicious email domains, links enclosed in the message, the wording of the messages, and the information requested in the email. The most effective security awareness training includes simulated spear phishing attacks that enable users to practice their threat detection skills in the ordinary course of a workday.
An outside audit is also helpful, and most audit firms now offer social engineering audits that assess how internal employees behave with critical information and IT assets. Because of the widespread use of spear phishing and other types of malicious activity, IT or the security team should budget for a corporate-wide social engineering audit from an independent audit firm at least biannually. An outside audit will expose any holes in corporate security and employee security behavior to remedy vulnerabilities.
Enterprises should update their security software, such as spam filters, antivirus software, and other advanced threat protection and security software on a routine basis.