Cetas Blog Post

All You Need to Know About Phishing Attacks

October 31, 2022

Phishing is social engineering often used to steal sensitive information from users, such as passwords and payment details.



Phishing is social engineering often used to steal sensitive information from users, such as passwords and payment details. Email, IM, and text message phishing are when an attacker acts as a trustworthy source to fool a victim into opening an attachment delivered by the attacker. Once the target has been duped into opening the email, further steps are taken, such as installing malware, locking the computer in a ransomware attack, or disclosing private information. The results of an attack might be disastrous. For individuals, this may include engaging in illegal activity such as shoplifting, robbery, or identity theft.

It's important to note that phishing is often employed as part of a larger attack, like an advanced persistent threat (APT) event, to gain access to internal networks at businesses and governments. For this purpose, hackers use social engineering techniques to get sensitive data and login passwords from unsuspecting individuals. In the latter case, bad guys infiltrate your team to breach your network's defenses, release malware within your network's confines or get access to your network's most sensitive data by whatever means necessary. Even if a firm can ward off such an attack, it would likely still incur significant losses due to the attack's impact on the company's market share, reputation, and customers' trust.

Depending on the scope of the attack, a phishing attempt might quickly escalate into a security breach from which the targeted organization would have difficulty recovering.

Origin of Phishing

The origin of the term "phishing" can be deduced with little effort. Phishing is a kind of online fishing fraud, and the strategies used to catch fish are similar to those employed in phishing scams. After the hook has been carefully crafted to deceive its prey, it is cast into the water, and the fisherman waits patiently for a bite.

While the combination of the English words "fishing" and "phony" is the most likely origin of the digraph "ph" used in place of the letter "f," other writers have proposed different origins for the letter. A subculture emerged in the 1970s using rudimentary techniques to bypass telephone security. The word "phreak," a portmanteau of "phone" (telephone) and "freak," was first used to describe the earliest known computer hackers (rare, freak). When there were fewer networked computers, phreaking was often used to access private phone numbers or make free long-distance calls.

Phishing Attacks

For a phishing attack to be the perpetrator uses social engineering to obtain personal and financial information. There is generally only one way that phishers use to catch their victims. Spoofing sends fraudulent electronic messages to people by pretending to be someone else, such as a friend, coworker, bank, or government agency. A threatening or otherwise disturbing message is sent via email or text to the target to influence her decisions by creating an emotional response of fear in her. The purpose of this communication is to make her feel threatened. The recipient is warned that bad things will happen if they don't go to a certain website and take immediate action. When unsuspecting victim clicks the link, they are taken to a fake version of the genuine website. Once you reach the page, you will be prompted to log in using your username and password.

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Phishing Attacks Types

When an attacker uses social engineering to trick a user into disclosing login credentials via the Internet, they commit an attack known as "phishing." Different forms of phishing have a common goal: to illegally obtain sensitive information by taking advantage of the widespread use of the Internet for financial transactions. As a result, phishing has risen to prominence as one of the most pervasive kinds of cybercrime, alongside DDoS attacks, data breaches, and other forms of malware.

It is easier to protect your business from various phishing attacks if you know what they are. The five most common types of phishing attempts are as follows:

Spear Phishing
Email Phishing
Pop-up Phishing
Clone Phishing

How to detect a phishing attack?

While it may take some time and effort, most phony emails will leave behind minor signs that should alert you that they are not legitimate. Some tips on how to spot a fraudulent email and how to keep your inbox safe are provided below.

No legitimate business would ever ask for private information in an email. Suppose you get an unsolicited email pretending to be from a financial institution that includes a link or attachment and prompts you to enter sensitive information. In that case, you may assume it is a scam. Businesses won't send emails requesting sensitive information like passwords or credit card numbers, providing a direct login link.

Legitimate businesses will often address you by name. Standard pleasantries in phishing emails include "Dear Account Holder" or "Dear Customer." Some hackers don't even bother with the handshake. This is particularly typical in commercials.

Email addresses with a domain indicate a legitimate business. Examine the sender's email address beside their name by hovering over it. Verify that there have been no alterations (such as adding letters or digits). However, this approach is not without its flaws. Single or multiple domains are used by certain firms, while others utilize third-party email services.

The real email messages should use proper English. Poor grammar is one of the simplest tells that an email is phony. Professional email correspondence from a trusted source always reads well.

Hackers target the uneducated because they assume they won't notice suspicious activity as easily. Legitimate businesses would never coerce you into visiting their website. Phishing emails may include a hidden link. Therefore, any part of the email can be clicked to take you to a false website or download spam. Legitimate businesses don't send customers unsolicited files. Valid organizations won't just send you an email with an attachment out of the blue; instead, they'll point you to their website, where you can get the information you need. A company with your email address can offer you downloadable content like white papers.

Guide to Avoiding Phishing Attacks

Users and companies must take proactive steps to ward off phishing scams. Users must be aware of the risks they may be exposed to.

In many cases, the authenticity of a message can be determined by spotting subtle flaws in a supposedly forged one. Examples of such variations in URL construction include those with misspelled domain names or those that make minor alterations to the original domain name. Users should stop for a second and think about why they're receiving this kind of email in the first place.

The following are only some of the safeguards that firms may take to ward against phishing and spear phishing attacks:

Two-factor authentication (2FA), or multi-factor authentication, is the most effective method for preventing phishing attacks since it requires a second proof of identity before granting access to sensitive applications. To log in with 2FA, users need access to both a password, user name, and smartphone. Two-factor authentication ensures that compromised credentials cannot be used to gain access at any time, even if they have an attacker. Using two-factor authentication (2FA) is important, but organizations should also implement strict rules for password management. Never use the same password for multiple purposes, and personnel should be required to change their passwords regularly.

By teaching people to avoid doing things like clicking on links in unfamiliar emails, educational campaigns can also help mitigate the threat of phishing.