5 Most Common Phishing Techniques

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5 Most Common Phishing Techniques

The rapid evolution of technology has given cybercriminals opportunities to expand the threat landscape and organize more sophisticated attacks using different channels. They use different ways to attack their targets, and phishing is one of the most common and frustrating threats. 

The rise of phishing attacks constitutes a significant threat to individuals and organizations alike. It’s important for them to learn how to detect some of the most common phishing threats, and they should be familiar with the common phishing techniques that cybercriminals use to pull off these scams. 

In this article, we’ll have an overview of phishing attacks and then see some of the most commonly used phishing techniques. So, let’s get started.

What is a phishing attack?

It’s a type of social engineering attack generally used to steal user information, such as login credentials, Social Security Number (SSN), Personally Identifiable Information (PII), credit card details, and more. It happens when attackers trick their target into providing sensitive information by appearing as legitimate or trusted entities. The attack is carried out using a malicious file attachment or via links connecting to malicious websites. 

These phishing emails are generally represented as being from a reputed organization or a legitimate source they are difficult to differentiate from the real ones..  A phishing attack can have devastating effects. For individuals, it can be stealing critical information or funds, unauthorized purchases, or identity theft. For organizations, it can cause severe financial or reputational damage. 

Common phishing techniques

Here are the most common and sophisticated phishing techniques that cybercriminals use to trick their targets. 

  1. Email phishing

Email phishing is a technique in which an attacker sends thousands of fake emails. It’s a numbers game that can collect significant information and money, even if only a small number of people fall for the scam. Using this technique, attackers try to push their targets into action by creating a sense of urgency. For instance, an email could threaten account expiration or an emergency. Applying pressure on users can cause them to be less attentive and more prone to error. 

Moreover, attackers send the same email to millions of users requesting them to fill in personal information. This information can be used by criminals for their illegal activities. Phishing emails usually appear to come from a legitimate source or organization but usually have an extra subdomain or a misspelled domain. There are several ways to spot a phishing email, but the most common is to check the email address for any abnormality before  you  download an attachment or click a link.

  1. Spear Phishing

Spear phishing targets a specific individual or organization rather than a random application user. It is a more in-depth version of phishing requiring special knowledge about an organization or individual. The attacker acquires personal information about the target and disguises themselves as a trustworthy entity. It’s the most successful technique of acquiring the confidential information of the target.

Spear-phishing requires more time and thought to achieve as compared to phishing. In this technique, attackers try to get as much personal information of the target to make the emails they send seem legitimate and increase the chance of fooling victims. However, it’s difficult to identify spear-phishing attacks. That’s why they are becoming more prevalent. Be careful how you provide personal information on the internet. If there is anything that you don’t want an intruder to see, do not post it on your accounts. 

  1. Whaling

Whaling attacks are more targeted towards senior executives. However, the end goal of this technique is the same as other phishing techniques, but it tends to be a lot subtler. Tricks like sending malicious emails or links are not useful here, as attackers try to imitate senior executives. However, if criminals use emails, they state that the company is facing legal consequences, and for more information, you need to click the link. The link takes them to a page where they are asked to enter critical business information, such as bank account numbers or tax ID. 

Whaling attacks can cause severe damage to a company’s reputation. The standard advice for the prevention of whaling is to beware of clicking attachments or links in emails. Organizations need to educate potential whaling targets by applying whaling-specific best practices. Executives should learn to take special care while sharing and posting information online.  

  1. Smishing attack

Smishing uses short messages services, commonly known as text messages. This technique has become increasingly popular because people are more likely to trust a text message that comes in via a messaging app on their phones rather than via email. Another reason is that it’s easier for attackers to find the phone number of the user instead of email. 

A common example of smishing is a text message that seems to come from your bank. It tells you that your account has been compromised, and you need to respond instantly. The intruders ask you to verify your social security number or bank account number. The attacker has full control of your bank account once he gets the information. 

Do not respond to a text message that asks for financial or personal information. If you get an SMS that appears to be from your bank, contact them directly using the contact information you already had and avoid being scammed..

  1. Pharming

Due to the rapidly evolving threat landscape, people have become wiser to traditional phishing attacks, and fraudsters are using more advanced ways to attack. Pharming is an advanced technique that uses cache poisoning against the domain name system (DNS). It’s a naming system that the Internet leverages to convert alphabetic names to numerical IP addresses to locate and direct visitors to malicious sites. 

These spoofed websites aim to get a target’s login credentials, social security numbers, personally identifiable information (PII), and account numbers. Attackers usually target websites in the financial sectors, such as online payment platforms, banks, or e-commerce websites, with identity theft as their ultimate goal. To protect yourself against pharming, use a reliable DNS server and reputable internet service providers. Do not open attachments or links from unknown sources and only follow links starting with HTTPS

Phishing is constantly evolving to adopt new techniques. In this article, we have discussed some of the most common phishing techniques used by cybercriminals to trick their targets. Individuals and organizations must follow robust security measures to protect themselves in this digital world. In organizations, cyber training should be conducted to educate their employees. It will help them get in-depth knowledge on the risks and how to mitigate them. Nevertheless, if you want to create a security PHP webpage, here is an article on how to proceed

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