What Is Spear Phishing & How Can You Avoid It?

Unfortunately, in today’s digital age, phishing attacks are on the rise. According to Small Business Trends, one in every 99 emails is a phishing attack. Even worse, one-third of these attacks go completely undetected by your security software. That’s why, while your security and virus removal software can be a great benefit, it’s still essential to understand how to spot a phishing attack.

In general, phishing aims to infect your system with malware, viruses, or spyware. The attacker might have several reasons to target you – it might be to gain access to your financial information or computer over an extended period of time. When hackers target employees at a company, it can compromise the entire organization’s database.

Types of Phishing Attacks

There are two types of phishing attacks to be aware of:

  • Generic Phishing Attacks – These cyberattacks are not personalized and are usually sent out in bulk. There are often red flags that would lead the recipient to be skeptical of the communication. For example, the sender might claim to be from a bank or company that the recipient doesn’t do business with.
  • Spear Phishing Attacks – Spear phishing attacks target one individual recipient. In these cases, the attacker often researches the recipient through social media and other sources to gain knowledge that will make the phishing email seem more believable.

In spear phishing cases, an individual is targeted for a specific reason. Sometimes the motive is convenience. For example, if an individual has a lot of information available online, it will be easy for the hacker to craft a convincing phishing email. However, in other cases, the attackers are looking for employees of a specific company to gain access to the organization’s system and data.

Not too long ago, there were jokes about the types of emails that hackers might use because they were poorly constructed. However, that’s not the case today. Most phishing emails sent today are very convincing. Hackers thoroughly study legitimate communications from the entities that they’re impersonating. Therefore, it’s even more important than ever to learn how to protect yourself online.

How to Avoid Phishing Attacks

Because phishing attempts are becoming more and more convincing, users must always be diligent in their security procedures. You must be aware that even trusted contacts can compromise your safety. A well-known example of this is Facebook’s ongoing clone account issue. In these scams, hackers clone an existing account, creating a new one with the same name and profile pictures. Then, the hacker sends friend requests to the real person’s contact list.

Today’s users have become much more skilled at spotting these scams. Often the new or clone account is flagged before any real damage is done. However, when the scam first started, the hackers were using the cloned account to gain sensitive information and send phishing messages.

These types of attacks rely on your trust. They work because the recipient already has faith in the company or person that the hacker is impersonating. When you realize that anyone’s account can be unknowingly compromised, you understand that care should be taken with all online correspondence.

Here are a few best practices that you should use to help guard against phishing scams:

  • Never Click on Links in an Email – This is one of the most common ways people fall prey to phishing scams. If you get an email from your bank or another company regarding sensitive information, don’t click on any links. Instead, go to the bank or company’s website by typing it into your browser.
  • Be Careful with Downloads – Most of us send files via email every day; therefore, it’s easy to let your guard down with regard to documents sent via email. A good rule of thumb is to avoid downloading attachments from people you’ve never worked with before.
  • Keep All Software Up to Date – Many software updates include security upgrades and patches. That’s why it’s important to keep all of your software (including your operating system) up-to-date.
  • Be Careful with Information You Share Online – Spear phishing attackers craft their emails using information they find about you online. Therefore, if you are selective about the information you make available, it will be harder for hackers to create a convincing message.

Looking for Top IT & Computer Repair Services in Richmond?

Have you recently been targeted in a phishing scam? If so, NerdsToGo can help. Our experienced staff can assess your system and teach you how to secure your data going forward. We can also work with you to create a robust security protocol for your company.

For more information about our cybersecurity services in Richmond, or to book an appointment, contact us today!