Spear phishing is a targeted cyber-attack directed at an individual or organization where cyber-attackers send legitimate emails impersonating a trusted source. It is challenging to detect phishing emails due to their resemblance to other legitimate emails.
The email is well-designed to prompt the users to share sensitive information or take action enabling threat actors to steal money, access accounts, or download malware. A spear-phishing attack impacts the organization’s finances and reputation.
Here are a few spears phishing alarming signs and prevention methods that will help organizations secure themselves from these malicious threats.
Alarming Signs of Spear Phishing Attacks
Impressive Subject Lines
Cyber-attackers design an eye-catching subject line urging the users to respond to the mail. The email’s subject line, for example, might read- “Immediate action required,”- provoking the users to engage in the act impulsively. Therefore, businesses must avoid responding to subject lines that urgently reel them to take action. It is essential to think twice before responding to these questionable emails.
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Stubby and Low-Quality Images
Most organizations ensure to add high-quality signatures and logos in their email signatures. However, cyber-attackers do not consider these aspects as they mainly target individuals via spear phishing. Therefore, if a user finds grainy and unclear images in an unsolicited email, it could be a significant sign of a potential spear phishing attack. Always verify that the emails are fair and genuine before accessing links or attachments.
Cyber-attackers effectively utilize a user’s known contact to trick them into accessing the links and images and downloading the malware.
Organizations must always determine the tone and overall appearance of the messages in the email- unusual spelling errors or overly formal language.
If the language has an unfamiliar peculiarity to the tone, a user must ignore the mail or perhaps block the sender or confirm the authenticity from a reliable source.
Inconsistent Addresses, Links, and Domains
Organizations must track and monitor discrepancies in email addresses, links, and domain names to determine a potential spear phishing attack attempt. They must always verify the sender’s email address with previous emails to ensure they are identical. Moreover, if there is an embedded link in the mail, users can hover over it to check whether it leads to a malicious website. Users must immediately report these links.
Cyber-attackers tend to impersonate an executive, manager, or colleague, requesting users to complete a task, fill up a form, or download a document. Irrespective of the request, users must always consider whether the requests are sensible, reasonable, and aligned with the organization’s internal operations.
Suppose the security team, for instance, sends users an email requesting them to download a new application even when it does not require their involvement. In that case, there is a likeability of the users getting phished.
Spear phishing attack time plays a vital role in its success. It is worth noting that emails from colleagues from working time shifts are highly alarming, while emails from friends and family always raise a red flag. Users must monitor the email’s timestamp and differentiate its contents from previous messages sent by the sender. In cases of suspicions, users must access the email contents cautiously and look for potential signs of a spear phishing attack.
If users have yet to collaborate with the company mentioned in the email received, it might be a spear phishing attempt. When users receive unsolicited emails from mysterious companies, they must read the emails carefully to avoid accessing malicious links or attachments within the mail.
How Can Organizations Prevent Spear Phishing Attacks?
Security Awareness Training
Security awareness training effectively educates users on protecting themselves from malicious spear phishing attacks. Adequate training will enable users to determine and identify phishing emails and subject lines that might provoke them to share their data.
Users who need clarification about the email’s legitimacy must avoid accessing the links or downloading the attachments. Instead, they must send it to the cyber-security departments to gain more insights into the reliability of the email.
Leverage Multi-Factor Authorization (MFA)
MFA is a solid barrier between the user and the attackers trying to steal information. When organizations leverage MFA, that is, more than one password or code to access a file, it becomes challenging for attackers to steal the data. In addition to a strong password, a physical token or biometric identification provides an additional security layer.
Also Read: Emerging Web 3.0 Security Threats Every Digital Business Need to Identify
Regular Data Backup and Encryption
Regular backups are the best way for organizations to secure their data from spear phishing attacks. Backups come in handy when a system crashes or is infected with malware as it allows businesses to restore the data from the backup, primarily saving them from data loss.
At the same time, data encryption helps businesses protect themselves from these attacks because it makes it challenging for attackers to decrypt the data once they gain control over it. Encrypting passwords, credit card details, and other sensitive information is essential to ensure that the user is not as vulnerable if they fall victim to a spear phishing attack.
Why is Spear Phishing Effective?
Spear phishing attacks are not entirely technical, unlike other cybercrimes; instead, there is always a psychological aspect integrated. Cyber-attackers, efficiently prey on victims’ feelings and anxieties to provoke immediate action. At the same time, top-notch personalized content and subject lines conceal its malicious intent.
Why Must Organizations Prevent Spear-Phishing?
Spear phishing attackers target the victims in many forms. They efficiently work across emails and other communication channels to acquire sensitive data from the company. Attackers try to procure background data like employee names, job titles, and email addresses from available databases and social networks.
They utilize this information to send personalized emails making the messages credible. Moreover, they also create bogus websites to gather personal information like credit card numbers and passwords. A leak of sensitive information leaves detrimental effects on organizations.
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