Phishing is a scam by which an unsuspecting victim voluntarily gives personal or financial information to what they think is an official institution the victim already has some connection with.
A good example would be the mass emailing that took place in 2003. An email claiming to have come from Ebay was sent to a large number of people, warning them that their account would be canceled if they did not click on a link within the email and confirm some information. The reader was taken to what appeared to be an official Ebay page asking them to update their credit card information when they clicked on the link.
As it turned out, neither the website nor the email was created by Ebay, but rather were sent by scammers who used them to collect credit card information. Many people who received the email already had an Ebay account and believed it was a legitimate email from Ebay, even though not all fell for the bait.
What Is Spear Phishing?
Spear phishing is a specific type of phishing scam. As with other phishing methods, it involves obtaining personal information from the victim via email. While normal phishing targets individuals and consumers, spear phishing targets entire businesses and organizations.
A spear-phishing scammer, for instance, might target a business and obtain information about it.
Using information that would spark the interest of the company members, they would then send a mass email to that company. The scammer may even pose as a member of the company or as a business partner. Social security numbers, passwords, trade secrets, and copyrighted information may be requested in the mass message.
Government-sponsored hackers and hacktivists often carry out these attacks. Cybercriminals resell confidential data to governments and private companies as well. Cybercriminals use individually designed approaches and social engineering techniques to personalize messages and websites.
Thus, even high-ranking organizational targets, such as top executives, may open emails they thought were safe. The slip-up allows cybercriminals to steal the data they need to attack networks.
Spear Phishing Attacks: How They Work
It is essential that attackers obtain personal information before creating a spear phishing email, as the entire attack relies on the recipient believing the message.
An attacker can accomplish this in several ways.
A vulnerability in the email infrastructure or ordinary phishing are two methods of compromising an email or messaging system. That’s just the first step. An attacker compromises someone’s email within a targeted organization, and they observe and track interesting conversations. When the time is right, they send an email to the target referencing past conversations or money transfers.
In the event that an attacker cannot hack into the communications system, they could also use open source intelligence (OSINT), scouring social media for information about their target.
Attackers may also use your online presence to gather personal information.
Is Spear Phishing Illegal?
It is generally not prohibited to send communications to businesses, especially if the business publishes its e-mail address(es). It is illegal, however, to use or obtain someone’s private information without their consent. These types of actions can constitute criminal fraud charges. They may also involve charges for identity theft.
Additionally, spear phishing scams attempt to hack into other businesses’ data files and account information. An email phishing message, for example, may ask for access to confidential company information. If you hack into another company’s database, you could be charged with a federal felony and face severe penalties.
Spear Phishing Signs
The scammers target new employees because they have yet to establish themselves in a new workplace.
A spear-phishing email will probably ask you to do something unusual or outside corporate channels (assuming the attacker has all your personal information correct). That’s the only way to part you from your (or your company’s) money. It might be difficult for new employees to recognize out-of-the-ordinary requests, but you should follow your gut as much as you can.
What Can I Do to Avoid Spear Phishing?
Software aimed at filtering fraudulent messages can often be used to combat spear phishing. The employees should also be trained to recognize false messages and report them to the appropriate supervisors. Also, you should report any instances of spear phishing to the police or to government agencies whose purpose is to investigate fraud in a business setting.
You can avoid falling victim to this scam by following these suggestions:
- E-mails from legitimate companies will never ask you for sensitive financial information, so if you get one asking for it (even if it looks legitimate), disregard it: Instead, check the company’s official website, email them, or call them at an address or phone number you know is valid.
- Do not send any confidential financial information via email: Instead of sending your information via email, you should use a secure website (like one that begins with “https” instead of just “https”). Nevertheless, be careful what information you give away, and do not give away any private financial information unless it is absolutely necessary.
- Keep your computer updated with anti-virus software: In some cases, “phishers” send software with their emails that harm your computer or track your Internet activity without your knowledge.
The Differences Between Spear Phishing, Phishing, and Whaling
E-mail attacks include phishing, spear phishing, and whaling, with phishing being a broader category of cyberattacks that includes just about any use of e-mail or other electronic messages to trick people, and spear phishing and whaling being just two types.
Typically, phishing attacks involve generic messages sent automatically to thousands of recipients. Although the attachment might have a name like “salary report,” or the link might be a fake lottery winning site, the message content is not intended to be tailored to any particular person. Phishing emails are analogous to anglers casting baited hooks (phishing emails) and hoping some victims will bite on them (the analogy derives from fishing).
Spear phishing involves attempting to catch a specific fish. Spear phishing emails include information specific to the recipient to persuade them to click on the link. From various sources, the attackers can glean information about the recipient’s job or personal life, including their name.
Whaling is another phrase you might hear in this context, referring to spear phishing that goes after big fish. All spear phishing is targeted but sometimes focuses on less prominent targets with an important function, such as someone in IT or finance with authority to grant user access or approve invoices, for example.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With Spear Phishing Cases?
Spear phishing can cause many losses for businesses in terms of time and resources. You may wish to hire a fraud lawyer if you have any legal issues involving spear phishing. An attorney near you can provide you with advice for your case and can also help you file a lawsuit or criminal claim if necessary. Your attorney will be able to represent you if you need to attend court hearings.
If you’ve been the target of a phishing attack, don’t fret. Contact an attorney as soon as you suspect something. Use LegalMatch to find the right fraud lawyer in your area and start resolving your fraud or phishing issues.