Spear phishing is a type of cyber-attack which involves hackers using information collected on specific individuals to make their email scams seem more legitimate.
Emails from spear phishing attacks usually target specific businesses or individuals within a business, as opposed to using more general messages that will reach a larger number of people. In addition, the emails used in spear phishing attacks are often designed to trick the recipient into sharing valuable information about themselves and their company.
How It Works
Spear phishing attacks can be initiated in a number of ways.
The first and most common way is for hackers to use social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. to find out more information about the companies they want to target and the members of those organizations. This information can then be used to help convince employees that an email is legitimate.
Another common way is by hacking into other sources that contain valuable information. This could include websites, databases, blogs or newsgroups. The hacker may also use software designed to search the internet for specific information related to their target.
Once they have gathered enough information about their intended victims, the attackers will send out personalized messages intended to fool members of their target organization into opening malicious attachments or links in the email which allow them access to sensitive company data such as financial records and personal employee information such as Social Security numbers and passwords.
After gaining access to this critical information, hackers will often use it either for themselves or sell it to criminal organizations for purposes that may include extortion or identity theft.
Spear phishing attacks are considered to be among the most dangerous phishing scams because they use information about specific individuals and companies which makes them harder to detect. They have been on the rise in recent years and continue to cause problems for private citizens and government agencies alike.
How to Protect Yourself
There are a number of ways you can protect yourself from falling victim to spear phishing attacks:
- When you receive an email from someone you don’t know, be suspicious. Just because an email appears to come from a company such as your bank or credit card company does not mean that it did.
- Check the email address of the sender and confirm that it is accurate and valid before responding to any requests for information contained in the message. If possible, try to use contact information located on their website rather than replying directly to the email itself.
- Beware of attachments and links contained within emails. Even if an attachment appears to be a picture or PDF file, do not open it unless you are expecting it. Links included in unsolicited email messages should never be clicked on either, search online for the item instead.
- If you need to enter personal information online, use websites that begin with “https://” rather than standard websites that begin with just “http://”. The “s” makes it more difficult for hackers to intercept your information as it’s transmitted over the web.
- Always be on guard against malicious software like key loggers which can track everything you type and give attackers access to all your passwords, accounts, etc. The best way to protect yourself from this form of attack is by using a good antivirus program.
Frequently Asked Questions about Spear Phishing
What is the difference between “phishing” and “spear phishing”?
Phishing is an act of fraud that basically involves conning information out of unsuspecting users by making them click hyperlinks that seem legitimate. Spear phishing is when hackers use social engineering techniques to create emails that appear genuine with the aim of tricking specific targets into clicking on malicious links or opening compromised attachments.
What is spear phishing used for?
Spear phishing acts as a convenient tool for hackers who want to gain access to highly sensitive information. In some cases, it has been used by cybercriminals to steal financial data, though it is more commonly being used to gather sensitive information from large corporations.
What should I do if I’ve been a victim of spear phishing?
In the case that you realize that you have fallen for one of these scams, the best course of action would be to immediately change your passwords since this will help protect any other accounts that might have been compromised due to risky sharing practices.
Are there any penalties for being a victim of spear phishing?
There are certainly financial penalties involved in cases where valuable data has been stolen or when a company is forced out of business following a successful cyber-attack. In some cases, individuals could face jail time depending on how much damage was done and whether they can be extradited.