Breaking Down the Inner Workings of Phishing Scams

Breaking Down the Inner Workings of Phishing Scams

Phishing scams remain the most prevalent cyberattacks for one reason; they’re successful in soliciting sensitive information from unsuspecting employees at all levels of the company. 90% of the time, cyber attacks start out as phishing, where shady actors dish out targeted and untargeted emails seemingly from legitimate companies while in fact, they’re not.

In this blog, we’ll cross off the various types of phishing attacks on your radar, the intent behind phishing emails, and most importantly, how you can secure your email communication and business.

The Intent Behind Phishing Emails

Depending on the type of threat, an attacker may have spent days planning for the exact moment when they will acquire sensitive information from an unsuspecting victim.

That said, why do cybercriminals distribute phishing emails?

  • Financial theft/fraud  – This is the reason behind most phishing emails. In 2022, Americans lost over $52 million according to the FBI. Scammers will use various tactics to gain sensitive credentials and carry out fraudulent fund transfers or extort victims.
  • Data theft For many cybercriminals, usernames, and passwords, social security numbers, and credit card numbers are a goldmine. Such information can be used to commit financial theft or inject malware. Your personal data could also fetch a profit on the dark web.

On the bright side, phishing, as a social engineering attack, can be easy to spot with a keen eye. A phishing scam will often carry the following red flags:

  • An email urging you to click on a link should be met with caution. Scammers target the most innate attributes of human beings, i.e. greed, confusion, fear, and sense of urgency to force victims toward a particular action.
  • If an email directs or redirects you to a website, proceed with caution. Be sure to hover your mouse pointer over the link and preview its contents.
  • Emails containing attachments should be quarantined first and assessed for their security status. Malicious extensions and programs can be disguised to appear as legitimate documents. Once open, the program executes and injects your system with ransomware.

Phishing attacks have been refined over the years to strike at “higher-quality targets”. For business owners, this means investing in security awareness training programs that expose the different types of phishing.

Types of Phishing Attacks

The scope and nature of phishing attacks evolve by the day, targeting individuals and businesses of all sizes. While phishing emails are common, cybercriminals also use text messages, voice calls, instant messaging, and social media to dupe their victims.

Here are the most common phishing traps to watch out for:

  1. Spear phishing Scammers send highly personalized emails targeting individuals or businesses to nudge them into giving up sensitive information such as login credentials or credit card information.
  2. Whaling – A type of spear phishing attack targeting high-level executives. The perpetrators impersonate trusted figures in the company and steal highly sensitive credentials. Successful whaling attacks pose an existential threat to the entire company.
  3. Business email compromise (BEC) – A BEC is an attack that tricks an employee into initiating a money transfer to the cybercriminal’s account in faith that they are performing a legitimate, authorized business transaction.
  4. Smishing – An increasingly popular form of cyberattack, smishing uses text messages claiming to be from trusted sources to deceive victims into sharing sensitive information or transferring money to the perpetrator’s account.
  5. Vishing Cybercriminals use voice phishing to impersonate agents or representatives of the IRS, a bank, or the victim’s office, to name a few.
  6. Angler phishing This type of scam primarily targets social media users. Cybercriminals will fake customer service accounts and trick dissatisfied customers into revealing their sensitive information, including bank details.
  7. Brand impersonation – Cybercriminals impersonate a popular business to trick its customers into divulging information. 

While brand impersonation is targeted mainly at the customers, an incident can tarnish the brand image.

Bolster Your Email Security Posture

Email communication is vital for the success of the business. However, when all your security defenses are breached, it can be difficult to regain control on your own. That’s why you should consider partnering with an IT service provider who deeply understands cybersecurity and has the right tools and expertise for the job. 

Ready to take your email security to the next level? Contact BoomTech today for more information.

Philipp founded BoomTech after moving to the United States from Switzerland at the age of 24. His clients say he operates his business like a “Swiss Clock!” because he has a very detail-oriented process that allows him to come up with a technology solution to his client’s problems no matter what it takes.

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Hear from Philipp Baumann, owner and founder of BoomTech:

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