While regular phishing campaigns are a common occurrence in the operation of any business, sometimes malicious actors will craft a more sophisticated spear phishing campaign for a target they deem valuable enough to be worth the additional effort. Spear phishing attacks are not as common as mass phishing campaigns, but that is because they require much more effort on the attacker’s part. However, the added effort means they are more convincing, and if your business works with sensitive information or has ties to a high-value target, hackers may invest the effort needed to steal your information and plan subsequent attacks.
What is Spear Phishing?
Spear phishing is a form of phishing attack where malicious actors will target a single individual, business, or entity. Instead of sending out malicious emails to an indiscriminate list of potential victims, a narrow target is instead selected, and the attack is tailor made to have the highest chance of success with its target. Malicious actors will use this attack type if they feel a specific target is of exceptionally high value or if there is a political reason for trying to gain access to a specific network. Due to their personalized nature, spear phishing attacks are often more convincing and much more effective than lower effort phishing campaigns sent out en-masse.
Improved Phishing Strategies
Because spear phishing campaigns only target one individual or business, malicious actors will craft their phishing emails with much more care and attention to detail. This means spear phishing is where some of the most complex and sophisticated phishing attacks occur. Often, the spear phishing email will contain information the attacker knows is relevant to the person or business they are targeting, and they will combine this familiar information with urgency to get the target to click a malicious link without thinking about it. Similarly, malicious actors can impersonate services, coworkers, or other companies the target frequently works with to add a social engineering element to the attack.
Prevention and Best Practices
Many of the security services used to prevent phishing can help deter spear phishing attempts as well. Layered security that includes multifactor authentication (MFA), endpoint protection, a next generation firewall and more can help identify and contain any threats that approach your network. However, spear phishing attacks are a sophisticated form of attack that will circumvent as many security tools as possible. As a result, people and businesses cannot solely rely on them and must keep their cybersecurity training always in mind. Verifying urgent emails, being suspicious of strange messages, and always remaining vigilant when working with emails will often offer the best chance of catching a spear phishing attack.
The rarity of spear phishing campaigns and high value on a target may make small businesses feel they aren’t a worthy target for spear phishing attacks, but this is untrue. The work a person or business does is a prime factor in whether or not malicious actors will target them for a unique attack, and sometimes it only takes the right connection to a larger organization or government body to make your business a viable target. For this reason, our security specialists here at Robinett Consulting recommend every business keep their phishing training and cybersecurity tools up to date, so your small business is always ready for what is coming over the threat horizon!
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