Spear Phishing vs Phishing in Cybersecurity

With the internet becoming widely available almost everywhere globally, the risks for a Cybersecurity attack in the form of Spear Phishing or Phishing it’s significantly increased. The online world it’s not always a safe place, and it’s crucial that you understand how to protect yourself.

In this article, we will talk about Spear Phishing and Phishing cyber security attacks. Everything that comes with it is explained in detail and illustrated. Learn how to protect yourself from an attack successfully. Let’s get started first with Phishing.

The Definition of a Phishing Attack

First, the term Phishing became popular in the 1960s by the hackers known for their notorious phone scams. These hackers could ‘win’ free phone calls just by playing a sound at a specific frequency to a phone receiver. At the time, this was a huge deal, and thus the term Phishing started around that era.

Phishing attacks are much more complicated and complex nowadays, but the main idea remains the same: to steal the users’ credentials and other valuable data. It’s a social engineering attack where the attackers mask themselves as trusted establishments and trick users into opening an e-mail or message.

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Usually, these messages are sent in bulk to many people with the hopes that someone will follow through. They can include links in the message with a hidden script, malware, or even ransomware behind it. They can also have instructions to make the victim give away sensitive information. Either way, the damage could be massive once the unsuspecting person clicks or follows through with the instructions.

That’s why it’s crucial to stay vigilant when browsing online. Even the best of us can fall prey to these scams. Don’t forget that the more we learn and improve our defense systems, the more these hackers perfect their craft. If you want to know more about protecting yourself from these attacks, look for the section below. 

The Definition of Spear Phishing

Essentially, Spear Phishing is the same as Phishing, where the attackers try to get valuable information, credentials or even gain access to the victims’ system. However, the main difference here is the way this attacks works and whom it targets. Unlike Phishing, in this case, the hackers know precisely whom they are targeting.

Pulling this kind of targeted attack, the hackers need to perform more in-depth research about the victim. They usually pick people who are somewhat important and can give them access to something they are after. 

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The hackers need to understand the importance of that specific person to the organization and then craft a plan of attack based on that information.

The frightening thing about the spear-phishing attack is that the victim can be unsuspecting of it ever happening. They send individually crafted emotional messages that use the best social engineering techniques to gain the victim’s trust. Combined with the ability to make identical copies of legit e-mail notifications, even the top-ranking positions at organizations can fall for it.

How does Spear Phishing Work?

As we briefly mentioned above, the Spear Phishing attack works by singling out a person and individualizing the attack. It’s Phishing but more advanced and dangerous. Learning how these kinds of attacks work it’s important because you’ll get a clear view of how to protect yourself.

The steps of a Spear Phishing attack:

1- Research. The attackers have set a goal in mind; it could be for monetary gains or gaining access to essential files and documents. They begin doing research and analyzing the power structure of the institution or organization that they want to attack.

2- Crafting the Attack. This is the most crucial part of their operation. After the target has been chosen, the best social engineering and manipulating methods are implemented to gain the person’s trust.

3- Posing as a Trustworthy Entity. The attack really starts now, and there are different methods of doing it. They can approach the victim by e-mail, making it look legit, through social media posing as a long-lost friend to gain privileged information and many more. 

Depending on the security of the victim’s system, the e-mail could have a link with malware that installs in the background if he clicks it. Or the link could redirect to a spoofed version of a website where the victim thinks everything is legit. After they insert the login credentials in the spoofed version of the website, they’ll be redirected to the original website and think nothing of it.

That’s it the hacker has gained access, and it can finish what he already started. Or they can let it play out and wait for the right time to attack and maybe get elevated access. It could also be the beginning of an Advanced Persistent Attack or APT known in the CyberSecurity space.

How to Avoid Phishing and Spear Phishing attacks?

These attacks are hard to detect from the usual security tools and measures since it uses unique methods. Social engineering passes through the spam filter, and the e-mail can even convince people that it’s from a legit source. Learning how to avoid these attacks requires a particular skill, but anyone can master it.

The first thing is always to be vigilant about what you are looking at and what you are clicking online. These e-mails aren’t flawless, they have subtle mistakes, and the links are different as well. If that still doesn’t convince you that this e-mail was a rouse, then think about why should you be getting it?

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So, if ‘Amazon’ sends you an e-mail about a product you haven’t bought, check your credit card first. If the attackers took the funds, then you have already been hacked. Contact the bank to freeze the account. But if nothing is showing on the bank statement, look closer to that e-mail, and you’ll see it wasn’t actually sent from Amazon.

One of the best security features that you should activate on all the platforms that have it available is the Two-Factor Authentification (2FA) from Google. This is considered the most direct counter to phishing attacks since it adds an extra verification layer when logging in. It’s impossible to bypass it, and no one is going to give the 2FA code to another person willingly.

Closing Thoughts

Well, in this article, we explained what Phishing and Spear Phishing is, their differences, and how they work. It’s also essential to learn how to protect yourself, and that’s why we added the last paragraph. 

Hopefully, this information is going to help all of you in the future. Let’s look at some of the main things we learned from this article.

  • The term Phishing became popular in the 1960s by the hackers known for their notorious phone scams.
  • Phishing it’s a form of social engineering attack where the attackers mask themselves as a trusted establishment and trick the user into opening an e-mail or message.
  • Spear Phishing is a form of Phishing, but it’s targeted towards one individual and crafted specifically for them.
  • The three steps of a Spear Phishing attack are Research, Crafting the Attack, and Posing as a Trustworthy Entity.
  • You can avoid these kinds of attacks by being vigilant, looking for minor details, and having good system protection tools in place, such as the Google Two-Factor Authentification (2FA).

With all that being said, I’m more than happy to reply to the questions you have for this article in the comment section.