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Understanding Phishing and its Prevalence in Cyberattacks

05 June, 2019

Phishing continues to be a significant threat in the cybersecurity landscape, with a staggering 65% increase in phishing campaigns worldwide over the past year. So, what exactly is phishing? It involves cybercriminals impersonating legitimate companies via emails, forms, or websites with the intention of deceiving individuals into revealing sensitive personal information, such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, login credentials, and other personal identifiers. Unfortunately, victims often remain unaware of the compromise until after their identity or finances have been compromised, leading to long-lasting and devastating consequences. Unlike the past, where attackers swiftly stole money from compromised accounts, modern phishing attacks have shifted towards selling valuable information on the Dark Web, extending the duration and impact of these malicious acts.

The Three Types of Phishing Attacks:

  1. Spear Phishing:
    Highly targeted attacks directed at specific individuals or organizations. Attackers gather personal information to increase the likelihood of success, making it the most prevalent form of phishing, accounting for 91% of attacks.
  2. Clone Phishing:
    This attack involves replicating legitimate emails, replacing attachments or links with malicious versions, and sending them from spoofed email addresses to appear authentic. Recipients may mistakenly believe they are receiving updated or reprinted content from the original sender.
  3. Whaling:
    Phishing attacks are specifically aimed at high-profile targets within businesses, such as senior executives. The content of these attacks is carefully tailored to appear as critical business emails, often imitating legal subpoenas, customer complaints, or executive issues.

Phishing attacks are not limited to email communication; hackers have adopted more sophisticated methods, including SMS texting (smishing), voice phishing (vishing), and social engineering techniques, to deceive users into taking malicious actions.

The Consequences of Phishing, particularly through the spread of ransomware, have intensified since the emergence of significant ransomware viruses like Petya and Wannacry. Ransomware is most commonly propagated through phishing attacks, and various industries, such as small businesses, education, government, and healthcare, are frequently targeted. Organizations with inadequate data backups are forced to pay ransoms, leading to financial losses and reputational damage. Additionally, victims are often perceived as untrustworthy, causing customers to seek alternatives, further impacting their bottom line.

The Rampant Prevalence of Phishing Attacks can be attributed to several factors:

  1. Volume:
    With nearly 5 million new phishing sites emerging monthly, and the rise of phishing as a Service companies offering attacks for payment, the number of phishing attempts has surged.
  2. Effectiveness:
    Over 30% of phishing messages get opened, and 12% of targets click on embedded attachments or links, reflecting the proficiency of hackers in creating deceptive communications.
  3. Simplicity:
    Skilled hackers can quickly deploy phishing campaigns in minutes, enabling them to replicate successful strategies for financial gain.

In our upcoming blogs, we will delve into How to Spot a Phishing Attack and the importance of addressing Your Employees as a crucial element in enhancing your cybersecurity defenses.

05 June, 2019