Phishing is a dangerous cyberattack that seeks to prey on unsuspecting victims. Spear phishing attacks are even scarier and more dangerous. Learn how to identify and prevent them from compromising your sensitive data.
What is Spear Phishing?
We’ll start by defining phishing, a similar attack in which hackers attempt to trick a victim into sharing information such as passwords or financial data. Cybercriminals typically masquerade as a trusted entity, like a bank or government organization, in order to build trust with their victims.
Spear phishing attacks take that false sense of trust a bit further, by hyper-personalizing attacks.
For example, a phishing attack may appear as an email from your bank, claiming someone in a foreign country made a false charge and asking you to send your credit card information to cancel it. It won’t include your name, phone number or any other unique identification information.
Spear phishing, on the other hand, would be personalized to you or your company. The message would be modified to include specific information to look even more legitimate and harder to identify.
How Does Spear Phishing Work?
Like traditional phishing scams, spear phishing attacks are typically conducted via spoof email. As detailed above, hackers will send you an authentic-looking email and encourage you to either click a malicious link or respond with sensitive personal information.
Spear phishing has also become more common on social media. If you’re not careful, someone can learn a lot about you from your social media profiles. Then, they can make a fake profile, pretending to be someone you actually know, and trick you into giving them money.
4 Ways to Prevent Phishing Attacks
Like many other cyberattacks, the best way to combat spear phishing is to educate yourself and the people who work at your company.
Any time you receive an unsolicited email from an institution, be suspicious and do the following:
- Triple check who sent it
- Avoid clicking links/attachments
- Alert your IT support team
Banks and financial institutions will never contact you via email and request you to respond with sensitive information. They already have it on file, so don’t panic and immediately click a link out of fear.
If the email appears to be from someone you know but makes a strange request, call them or talk to them in person.
2. Email Filtering
Email security and spam filtering software scans incoming emails for malicious attachments. Then, they’re blocked from ever reaching your inbox.
3. Software Updates
We’ve been talking about software updates more and more in our blogs. That’s because cyberattacks are becoming more sophisticated at an alarming rate.
Whenever your operating system, cyber security software or anything else prompts you for an update, install it. Without that update, you may be missing a crucial security patch.
4. Password Variation
Be sure to vary your passwords across all of the accounts you use. This way, in case you do fall victim to a spear phishing attack, the hacker doesn’t obtain access to all of your accounts.
Spear phishing attacks can potentially be catastrophic, but with a bit of awareness and a few cyber security tools, they’re not difficult to avoid.