HomeBlock ChainSpear Phishing vs. Phishing: Unraveling the Distinction

Spear Phishing vs. Phishing: Unraveling the Distinction

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The simple answer: spear phishing is a specific type of phishing attack. Phishing involves using malicious email messages, text messages, or voice calls to deceive people into sharing sensitive information, downloading malware, visiting harmful websites, sending money to the wrong recipients, or otherwise causing harm to themselves, their associates, or their employers. Phishing is the most common method of cybercrime, with 300,479 reported phishing attacks in 2022. The majority of phishing attacks are bulk phishing, where impersonal messages are sent to millions of people in the hopes that some will fall for the scam. Spear phishing, on the other hand, is a targeted form of phishing. Spear phishing messages are highly personalized and sent to specific individuals or groups based on research. They are designed to appear as though they come from someone the recipient knows, such as a coworker, colleague, or manager. While spear phishing attacks are less common than bulk phishing attacks, they aim for larger, more valuable rewards and can have a significant impact when successful. In fact, spear phishing emails accounted for just 0.1 percent of all emails but caused 66 percent of data breaches in a 12-month period. A notable example of a spear phishing attack resulted in scammers stealing over $100 million from Facebook and Google by posing as legitimate vendors and tricking employees into paying fraudulent invoices. Spear phishing attacks employ strategies that make them more difficult to identify and more convincing than bulk phishing attacks. These include conducting extensive research to impersonate senders effectively, using specific social engineering tactics to manipulate victims, and combining multiple media types, such as phone calls or text messages, for added credibility. Spear phishing attacks can further be categorized into subtypes based on who they target or impersonate. Business email compromise (BEC) attacks focus on stealing money or sensitive data from businesses by sending emails that appear to come from managers, coworkers, vendors, or other associates. Whale phishing targets high-profile individuals, such as board members or executives, who have valuable assets or information. An example of a spear phishing attack involved phishers targeting Twilio employees using fake SMS text messages that appeared to be from the company’s IT department. The attack compromised Twilio’s network and impacted numerous customer organizations. To stay ahead of spear phishing and phishing attempts, organizations rely on various security measures, including email security tools, antivirus software, multi-factor authentication, security awareness training, and phishing simulations. Advanced threat detection and response capabilities, such as IBM Security QRadar SIEM, can also play a crucial role in identifying and mitigating the effects of successful phishing campaigns.

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