Given that conventional methodologies and security fortifications are ineffective in combating these scams, newer, more effective methods are essential for a strong cybersecurity posture.
Spear phishing is one of the most notorious attacks that is getting difficult for organizations to tackle. These attacks are so well-planned and executed that one click on a spear-phishing email is enough for some of the most malicious cybercrimes in recent times, including the attacks on central banks, media companies, and security firms. A threat actor will conduct thorough research on companies’ names and positions as part of a spear phishing campaign explicitly created to infiltrate one organization.
Spear phishing is on an upswing because traditional security measures do not recognize and hence, focus on eradicating it. From a cybercriminal’s perspective, spear phishing serves as a seamless channel for various harmful exploits.
This could be ransomware, which encrypts corporate data and then demands money from the victim to fix it—reconnaissance malware for point-of-sale and banking Trojans that prey on retail and hospitality establishments. The targeted directors typically hold positions like the chief financial officer, head of finance, senior vice president, and director, among others. Even seasoned security professionals can be duped by spear phishing emails, which are created with enough detail.
According to the spear phishing life cycle, the following two vulnerabilities are being used by hackers: Phishing URLs and impersonation.
Even though almost all businesses have email security solutions, they still miss these targeted phishing emails. Organizations can get some remarkable outcomes by tweaking the current approach.
Why are Spear Phishing Scams Such a Big Challenge for CISOs
Sophistication and Complexity of Tools and Methodology are Increasing
Early spear phishing techniques and tools, like malicious email attachments or zip files, were more basic. Such emails and online messaging could be recognized and filtered by practical spam filtering tools and email security measures.
High-Level Employees and Even the CISOs Could Fall Prey to Spear Phishing Attacks
Spear phishing attacks, also known as whaling, that privileged target users and high-level employees have also increased recently. First, focusing on senior-level executives has a higher potential payoff than concentrating on lower-level workers.
Second, senior executives frequently balance several time-sensitive tasks. Due to the difficulties brought on by the pandemic, they are under tremendous pressure right now more than ever. There is a greater chance that the targeted executive will fall victim to such scams when the attackers assume the role of the CEO or Founder to force them to do their bidding.
Thirdly, senior executives frequently lack the training and tools necessary to recognize such nefarious attempts. Along with being under pressure and having a deadline, they also become highly accessible targets.
Conventional Defenses are Ineffective Against Spear Phishing Attacks
Most businesses employ conventional defenses like spam filtering software and email security. However, the sophistication of this attack vector makes it relatively simple for attackers to get around such security precautions. In such cases, the user must identify and alert the appropriate internal authorities to the spear-phishing scam. Given that conventional methodologies and security fortifications are ineffective in combating these scams, newer, more effective methods are essential for a strong cybersecurity posture.
DMARC: DMARC is an email authentication, policy, and reporting protocol. Its acronym is “Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance.” It expands on the widely used SPF and DKIM protocols by including linkage to the author (“From”) domain name, published guidelines for recipient handling of authentication failures, and reporting from recipients to senders, all of which help to improve and monitor the domain’s defense against phishing emails.
Impersonation Protection: This security measure identifies the company’s key personnel, such as the CEO, CFO, CTO, CHRO, etc., who can persuade staff members to take action, such as opening a malicious email attachment. After the data has been collected, the email security gateway should be configured to delete emails with names that originate from outside networks.
After implementing these security measures, organizations can eliminate “Trust,” a key component of spear phishing attacks. How much trust phishing emails can gain from their potential victims completely determines how successful they will be. While not ideal, this approach will undoubtedly make life difficult for hackers and give CISOs the upper hand in the Cost-Benefit analysis in the long run.
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