Phishing attacks are on the rise. Phishing tactics are growing in sophistication at an exponential rate. Once successful, a phishing attack can cost businesses an incredible amount of money. While some may be able to survive, others do not recover at all. Indeed, phishing attacks pose a significant threat to organisations worldwide. To protect oneself, it is important to understand what you are up against. Knowing how to spot some of the most types of phishing attacks can keep you from falling into these traps.
Different Types of Phishing Attacks
Phishing is a type of cybersecurity attack where an attacker pretends to be a trusted entity and sends a malicious email to trick victims into sending over their sensitive information or installing malware. This type of threat is increasingly frustrating as there are numerous ways attackers can get to you. Here’s a list of the most common types of phishing attacks:
1. Email Phishing
The most common form of phishing attack takes the shape of malicious emails sent by individuals mimicking a legitimate organisation. By sending out thousands of emails, the cybercriminal gets access to a large number of customers registered on a site. Email phishing is not a targeted attack and can be conducted en masse.
Messages that are used in this type of attack are typically about informing the readers that their accounts have been compromised and that they need to respond quickly by clicking the link provided in the email.
2. Domain Spoofing
Another form of email phishing involves domain spoofing where the attacker spoofs a legitimate organisation’s domain name. This type of attack typically involves character substitutions. For instance, attackers often use the combination of “r” and “n” instead of “m” to trick the receivers into believing that the message was actually from a genuine organisation. Alternatively, they use the organisation’s name in the local part of the email address in the hopes that the organisation’s name will simply appear on the recipient’s end.
3. Spear Phishing
Unlike email phishing that targets a general user base, spear phishing targets a specific person or a group of individuals. This type of attack typically succeeds accurately as it is more personalised. The perpetrator customises emails with the recipient’s name, position, company, phone number and other similar information. Thus, making the recipient believe that they actually share some sort of connection.
Whaling is a type of spear phishing that targets an organisation’s senior executive, typically the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) or the Chief Finance Officer (CFO). In this case, the attacker tricks an executive with bogus emails to gain access to their login credentials.
Unlike hacking other employees, catching high-ranking officials is not easy. Tricks such as using fake domains or fake links may not work in this instance. Most hackers typically swap fake URLs and malicious links or tax return emails, which contain a host of useful information such as names, addresses, social security numbers and even bank account details.
Vishing is short for “voice phishing,” a type of phishing attack that defrauds people over the phone to steal sensitive information such as their bank details. In this case, the attacker pretends to be calling from the government, police or the victim’s bank. The caller will then convince the victims and make them feel as though they don’t have any choice but to give the information being asked of them.
The Impacts of Phishing Attacks on Businesses
1. Reputational Damage
Brand reputations are built on consumers’ trust. So imagine the damage it could bring once a business suffers a data breach. Not only does it taint the reputation of the brand to its customers, it also puts the brand unworthy of the trust of its employees and partners. Unfortunately, such incidents can take years to be forgotten. As long as someone remembers them, it can still affect the public’s opinion.
2. Regulatory Fine
Once a customer’s sensitive information ends up in the public domain, the organisation involved will be held accountable. Apart from the direct monetary costs due to failure to protect the customers against phishing attacks, the organisation must also pay heavy regulatory fines for mishandling sensitive data.
3. Financial Loss
In 2021, threat research by RiskIQ found that businesses worldwide lose $1,797,945 per minute due to cybercrime. According to IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach 2021 Report, phishing attacks ranked as the second most expensive cause of data breaches. It costs businesses an average of $4.65 million.
Alongside the direct monetary loss, the organisation involved must also be responsible for the costs involved in providing identity protection and/or reimbursement to its customers and employees who have their information stolen.
4. Intellectual Property Loss
Intellectual properties such as trade secrets, researches, formulas and new developments are business assets. Unfortunately, they can all be compromised and be stolen by cybercriminals during a phishing attack. For organisations in the field of technology and pharmaceuticals, losing these intellectual properties could mean losing millions.
5. Business Disruption
Successful phishing attacks could disrupt business productivity. Following a data breach, a huge chunk of an organisation’s time will be spent on retrieving the missing data and investigating the attack. Employees might not be able to go back to work, customers might not be able to access online services, leaving the organisation with less time to deal with the actual business.
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