Spear phishing is a cyber attack that, unlike a traditional phishing attack, targets a specific organization or individual and involves prior research. For a spear-phishing attack to be successful, the attacker has to lure the victim into downloading, opening, or clicking on malicious links and attachments sent via emails, instant messaging, social media, and other platforms.
The goal of a spear-phishing attack is to purloin personal information and critical data to jeopardize or compromise the victim. Data and financial loss are key motivators of attempting spear phishing attacks. A spear-phishing email contains specific information about the target like their name, their organization’s name, their job description, and a platform they use often. Social engineering tactics like these increase the probability of the phishing email being successful.
A spear-phishing attack is a contingent attack – this means that it requires the victim’s aid to become an active threat. Regardless of this, 74% of organizations experience successful phishing attacks.
Spear phishing relies on information gathered through resources obtained from social media or otherwise. As it is a targeted attack, information vectors like the victim’s name, employment details, and preferences play a large part in enticing action that leads to successful phishing. Therefore, use aliases where possible, and avoid publicly sharing phone numbers, social security numbers, and banking information.
Through the power of the internet, a simple image posted on an online platform can reveal plentiful information about a person. These strategies can be used by threat actors to uncover details that would add credibility to a spear-phishing campaign. Therefore, images, data, and personal information shared on the internet should be strongly vetted before being uploaded.
Update all your protective and antivirus software. Patches and installing updates help close off loopholes that can be exploited by cybercriminals to intercept personal information. Faulty software and exploitable errors in outdated software allow attackers to access sensitive information.
Adopting healthy online practices allows users to shield themselves from incoming cyber threats. Phishing attacks become successful when users click on the links and attachments present in spam emails. This can be avoided by implementing vigilance in actions. An easy method to evade this is to hover your mouse over the link attached in the spam email, and if the source of the email and the link match (have the same domain or the URLs match), then the email is legitimate.
Spam options can be condensed or optimized to increase security measures. This added step can improve spam control on emails and help avoid any human error.
If all else fails, then the last pillar to support the victim will be backed up data. Data backups are essential in case of a successful attack as they can help restore the important information on the infected system. If a victim falls prey to a spear-phishing attack, and the attackers demand ransom in exchange for restoring data, the backup can help you escape this threat altogether, and you can avoid paying the ransom.