Different Types of Phishing Attacks and Protection Tips

Last Updated on 4 months by Touhid

There are many types of phishing attacks that you and your business can encounter, starting from email phishing, spear phishing, vishing to whaling, and more. These attacks comprise more than 90% of all data breaches. With advanced technology, cybercriminals will always stay a step ahead in phishing attacks, hence it is more important for you to be two steps ahead by being aware of phishing to protect your business.

Every business that you can come across is always susceptible to some kind of phishing attacks, and hence it is very crucial to be aware of what phishing is, how it works, and all the ways it can endanger your business. Phishing attacks are so serious that they can exceed the number of malware and ransomware attacks and damage millions of users’ safety.

This article breaks down various types of phishing attacks and possible ways to combat them for you and your company’s protection.

What Is a Phishing Attack?

You might be wondering what phishing actually is. Phishing is a type of social engineering attack that attempts to gain sensitive and confidential information such as usernames, passwords, credit card information, and network credentials. In this post, we will discuss different types of phishing attacks and their attacking techniques with protection tips.

It is a type of cyber attack that successfully deceives the victims into clicking a malicious link or file, often via emails, phone calls, or text messages, disguised as a credible source. Phishing is also used alongside malware attacks to cause serious privacy risks to the organization or user.

A successful phishing attack requires studying the user behavior thoroughly so that the hacker can set an easy trap for the user to fall in and expose their personal information. Almost every phishing attack will include opening a file or link where the user has to provide personal information or download malware.

Phishing attacks often start with advanced persistent threats (APTs) and ransomware.

Phishing is type of social engineering attack

How Does Phishing Attack Work?

If you are a business owner or an employee of any company, it is extremely important for you to understand how phishing attacks work.

A phishing attack begins with a fraudulent text, phone call, or email to trap the target user into accessing a link or malware. The text or email is disguised as coming from an authentic source or organization, such as the user’s workplace, bank, or university, and leads them to open a scam website. The better the disguise, the more successful the phishing.

A phisher tracks the online behavior of the target user by collecting their social networks, and background information and credentials about both their professional and personal life.

Such information includes personal identifiable information (PII), for example, credit card numbers, business and financial data, and medical and tax records. All of these are gathered to create a fake profile of that user and further continue phishing attacks through that fake profile on other users or companies.

Phishers also use emotional strategies such as causing curiosity, fear, greed or a sense of urgency in the users, fooling them to fall into the trap of being attacked.

Different Types of Phishing Attacks

In order to protect yourself from phishing attacks, it is important to be familiar with the different types of phishing attacks. Continue reading to know more.

1. Deceptive Phishing Attack

Deceptive phishing is the most common type of phishing attack and it is also known as traditional phishing. In this phishing technique, an attacker attempts to steal a user’s confidential information or login credentials. The most common forms of deceptive phishing techniques are as follows:

  1. Phishing Attack Technique 1: Here, attackers send a message to victims who seem to be one of your trusted service providers, and ask you to send personal information through a different portal.
  2. Phishing Attack Technique 2: In this technique, the victim receives an email from the attacker and the email contains a URL link. The URL is almost legitimate link but may have a malware script to collect information without user acknowledgment.

2. Spear Phishing

Spear phishing targets a particular organization, business, or person by stealing their login credentials using open-source intelligence (OSINT). Before starting this attack, the phisher gathers the organization or user’s name, contact details, and position.

The user is often fooled into believing that the phisher belongs to an internal communication or a trustworthy source. The phisher can research the user’s social networking sites to communicate with them in a familiar way, appearing more reliable.

Common targets of spear phishing are IT managers and HR staff since these individuals have top access to their businesses.

Phishing Technique: In this technique, attacker sends an email or online messaging to victim and include some personal data such as: the name of the victim, his role in the company, email address or his contact number.

The reason for includes these information is to gain his confidence and, therefore, obtain the information they need to compromise and access the confidential data they are looking for.

Learn more about How to Protect Spear Phishing Attacks?

3. CEO Fraud

CEO Fraud or Business Email Compromise (BEC) is a type of spear-phishing email attack in which the attacker impersonates your CEO. The attacker acts as a senior company executive to steal funds or gain access to sensitive business data. The most common form of CEO fraud techniques are as follows:

Phishing Technique: The attacker uses the name of your CEO but a different email address. The attacker tricks you into transferring money to a bank account owned by the attacker, to send confidential information or other sensitive information.

In the case of CEO fraud phishing, the attackers target a company’s finance department.

4. Clone Phishing Attack

Clone phishing is a type of phishing attack where a hacker copies a legitimate email and previously delivered email. This type of phishing is used to create an almost identical or cloned email and sent from a trusted organization.

Phishing Technique: Attacker sends a email to the victim and the email appears to come from the original sender and the attachment or link within the email is replaced with a fake or malicious website.

5. Vishing

Vishing is short for “voice-phishing”, where the phisher uses voice calls to attack, pretending to be someone the user knows. Vishing or voice-phishing makes it tough for a user to catch the caller since they speak with authority, and there is often no way to track down the caller’s identity.

By calling the target user, the phisher will ask to provide sensitive information about themselves or their businesses, tricking the user by inducing panic, threat or a sense of urgency.

6. Email Phishing

Email phishing is the most common type of phishing attack, which is used to send emails that appear legitimate, asking the receiver to reply with vulnerable details, or asking them to visit a site that can steal all their valuable information. Email phishing has been prevalent since the 1990s.

Such emails are carefully written with proper grammar and tone, and some emails can also threaten you to pay the phishers by blackmailing you with your personal data. Websites linked in such emails have the fake domain where characters, such as “m”, are replaced by “rn”, making them look similar and pretending to be the real domain.

Email phishing is types of phishing attacks

7. Whaling Phishing Attack

Whaling targets top individuals in high-ranking positions of a company, such as CEO or CFO. It is also known as CEO fraud. Whalings are crafted with a more polished tone, based on exhaustive research on an industry’s business operations and social media accounts, alongside using OSINT.

In whaling attacks, fake links are not as effective since the phisher wants to pretend to be someone of high authority. Instead, the phisher opts for distinctly personalized messages.

8. Evil Twin Phishing

In evil twin phishing, the phisher creates a fake Wi-Fi network that seems authentic. Anyone using this Wi-Fi network to log in and provide personal details becomes open to attack. In this type of phishing, all outbound and inbound data are cut off.

Evil twin phishing is common in public areas with free Wi-Fi networks, such as airports, libraries or restaurants. You can protect yourself from this attack by using a virtual private network (VPN) whenever you are using a free Wi-Fi network in a public space.

9. Angler Phishing

Angler phishing is where the phisher creates fake posts on social media to lure users into providing login information or install malicious software. These fake social media posts include cloned websites, fake tweets and URLs.

By tracking user algorithms, phishers can create highly specific target audiences using angler phishing.

10. Smishing

This type of phishing occurs via SMS or any form of text message (such as direct message). This is commonly sent through mobile phones with a fake link, or a phone number that will redirect you into getting phished.

Smishing is also written as SMiShing, highlighting its aspect of using SMS.

Apart from the ones discussed above, there are other types of phishing attacks as well. They are as follows:

  • HTTPS Phishing
  • Pharming
  • Pop-up Phishing
  • Watering Hole Phishing
  • Clone Phishing or Cloning
  • Deceptive Phishing
  • Man-in-the-Middle (MTM) Attacks
  • Image Phishing
  • Website Spoofing
  • Domain Spoofing
  • Search Engine Phishing
  • Business Email Compromise (BEC)

11. Website Phishing

A phishing website is a cyber-attack that tries to steal your sensitive information such as login credentials or other confidential information. Website phishing tricking you into believing you’re on a legitimate website.

12. Malware Phishing

In malware phishing, the attacker initiates malware into the email or a link directing to a malicious site.

Phishing Technique: Malware will automatically download to the victim’s computer and exploit security vulnerabilities when the victim accesses a malicious site.

13. Pharming

Pharming is a phishing scam where an attacker installs malicious code on a personal computer or server to redirect a website’s traffic to another, fake site without user consent. Its aims to gain personal information such as bank accounts, credit card numbers, login credential, or others valuable information.

Phishing Technique: In a pharming attack, attacker changing the hosts file on a victim’s computer or its domain name system (DNS). When a URL is requested, a false address is returned, and the victim is moved to a fake vulnerable website.

How to Identify Phishing Attacks?

By being aware of the following signs, you can identify and make sure that you are under a phishing attack.

  • Threats, such as using personal weaknesses to blackmail you to provide information.
  • Sense of urgency, such as creating a false scenario where you will need to give away your information to protect your business.
  • Unusual message style, such as a highly informal tone from a coworker or employee, and a very formal tone from a friend.
  • Abnormal requests for credentials and personal details, often creating a scenario with fake threats.
  • Linguistic errors, such as spelling and grammatical mistakes.
  • Inconsistent website addresses, which do not match the original, authentic website address.

5 Ways to Protect from Phishing Attacks

We have enlisted 5 ways with which you can protect your and your business’s data from being breached by phishing attacks. They are as follows:

1. Carrying Out Employee Awareness Training

Training your employees to understand phishing tactics, identify the signs and report unreliable conducts to the security team should be your highest priority and action to combat phishing attacks.

In addition, businesses should create their own safety badges or recognitions with which their employees can differentiate them from fake identities. Setting up spell checking to recognize grammatical and spelling errors can also help employees pick out fake identities.

2. Install Email Security Solutions

Installing email security solutions will instantly block and isolate suspicious emails, by detecting malicious attachments, links, language and spam content.

Sandboxing technology, which is a cybersecurity practice involving codes, can be used alongside to set off emails that can pose phishing dangers.

3. Endpoint Monitoring and Protection

It is crucial to monitor and protect endpoints that may not be completely secure due to increased cloud service and personal device usage. Security teams must take steps to monitor and protect endpoints for rapid solution and action on devices that are compromised.

4. Conduct Phishing Attack Tests

Carrying out phishing attack tests is a very effective method, and can help security teams to assess how successful the training programs are. They can also help employees understand phishing attacks more clearly.

Phishing attack tests include testing the employees with regular mimics of phishing attacks, and these tests must also evolve as the technology keeps advancing with time.

5. Limit User Access to High-Value Systems and Data

User accounts with certain privileges and access to businesses are a prime target of phishing attacks, hence limiting user access to higher level systems and data to only those who absolutely need them can help tackle such attacks and reduce phishing incidents.

FAQs

1. Is there any impact of phishing attacks?

The major impact of phishing attacks is as follows:

  • Hack financial and personal information.
  • Accessing user login credentials.
  • Modifying systems of an organization.
  • Down the reputation of an organization or individual.

2. Is phishing email a problem?

Yes, the phishing email is a problem. A phishing email is a type of cyber-attack that compromises the sensitive information of an individual or an organization.

3. Is phishing a software program?

No, phishing is not a software program. Rather, it is a type of social engineering and cybersecurity attack via various kinds of communication methods, such as email, voice calls, or text messages.

4. What are the best ways to prevent phishing attacks?

The best ways to prevent phishing attacks are as follows:

  1. Recognizing how a phishing scam looks.
  2. Not clicking on links from unknown sources.
  3. Installing free add-ons for anti-phishing.
  4. Not giving any information to unknown websites.
  5. Changing passwords frequently.
  6. Keeping all applications and software updated.
  7. Installing firewalls.
  8. Not clicking on any pop-ups.
  9. Having access to a Data Security Platform to identify phishing attacks.
  10. Not giving away personal information unless the website is guaranteed 100% secure.

Final Words

As much as we think we are immune to phishing attacks because of easily accessible security techniques, we still end up falling into them because we are unaware of the tricks of phishing attacks.

Additionally, it is very important from the end of companies and users to practice awareness and reporting techniques and be well-trained to not be a victim of phishing attacks.

Having discussed all the types of phishing attacks, you can easily identify that you are under attack by looking out for the possible signs.

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