It can be hard to believe that we are still struggling with the exact same issues in cybersecurity that were serious problems decades ago. Human psychology hasn’t changed since the apparition of the Internet, so criminals continue to exploit the same flaws that are present in our behavior.
Account breaches are a constant in IT and they can be more or less frequent depending on the mechanisms and habits implemented by users, both individuals and organizations. Among the most common account breach types these days, we can find the spear-phishing attack.
In the following lines, the My IT Guy team dedicates a few ideas to explain what are spear-phishing attacks, how they work, and how we can fight them back.
What are Spear-Phishing Attacks?
To understand spear-phishing attacks, we must begin with the bare basics: phishing attacks. The spear-phishing tactics fall into a broader category where all kinds of psychology-based tricks are used by malicious third parties to steal sensitive information (financial data, most of the time).
Phishing attacks are those tactics that aim to deceive the target with false information about the sender’s identity. However, on a broader sense, a phishing attack often uses a “frail facade”, a disguise that isn’t too convincing.
Now, a spear-phishing attack steps up the game by using information from a reputable, trusted source. For example, these attacks may use email addresses from big companies and send highly-customized messages that resonate with the target, mostly by including personal information that could be available on social media or personal documents hosted online.
Social Media and Spear-Phishing Attacks
Before social media, attackers had a difficult time to find personal information about their targets. Crafting that highly-customized message was a challenge having in mind that they were ignorant of names, addresses, and other data that could be relevant (and useful to create some kind of trust) during the interaction. Cybercriminals had to go further in their research about their targets, going from one end to the other on the Internet to gather any useful facts.
But then social media appeared and people were more than happy to make their personal information fully available to the world. From their names and addresses to their hobbies and family photos, highly sensitive data became fully available online and most social media users neglected privacy matters until recently. Still, there are many social media users that continue to be irresponsible with their information.
How to Fight Back Spear-Phishing Attacks?
The very first step you need to make in order to prevent spear-phishing attacks is to protect all sensitive data related to your identity and your organization. Going back to the social media aspect of the problem, we all must become responsible users of the Internet. The first step is to stop openly sharing personal information that may be used for malicious purposes.
Corporate is often the target of malicious parties who aim to steal data and elaborate highly-effective spear-phishing attacks. Therefore, protecting business data is a priority as well. Watch out for potential email and network breaches that may work as a backdoor for criminals to gather information.
Then step up your IT security game by implementing safer mechanisms as multi-factor authentication, DMARC authentication, permission-based access control, and AI-based blocking solutions, tools that may prevent attacks on time.