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Cyber – My Most Valuable Advice

Basics of Cybersecurity: The Lowdown on Spear Phishing

Spear-phishing attacks are launched using a common method: email. They are like usual emails. There may be a link or an attachment attached to the body. The main objective: to have you surrender a bit of information about yourself– in particular, your personally identifiable information (PII).

Spear phishing is deliberate. The phishers did their homework, often through social engineering. They might already know basic details about you, such as your name, where you live, where your work, etc. That piece of personalized information makes the email more credible.

Spear-phishing emails can be successful simply because they’re believable. People pay attention to only 3% of their spam, but 70% of spear-phishing emails. When a phishing campaign of 10 emails is launched, its chance of entrapping the target with a link or attachment is about 90%.

Unless you recognize a spear-phishing attack, you may never know you are losing information until it’s too late. By focusing on a certain individual, cyber attackers can ultimately gain access, direct or indirect, to sensitive data, including security clearances, credit card accounts, and so on. Spear phishing is only a step to a larger, more serious attack.

Anybody can fall prey to a spear-phishing attack, whether they mistakenly click on an unsought survey response or get deceived by a fake notification from their bank. Though an attacker may not be looking for your data specifically, you can be their bridge to a computer system that stores their targets’ PII or other classified data. In that context, we are all crucial to the safety of our own PII, as well as of the business systems we are involved in. As a finance professional, you have access to vital company data. If you’re a salesman, you have lists of clients and prospects. Everybody has help to give a phisher. You will almost always have a benefit to them.

They are meant for a certain person, typically by a certain group. A lot of publicly documented advanced persistent threat (APT) attack groups, make use of spear phishing.

How to Stop Spear-Phishing Attacks

To block spear-phishing attacks, security teams should first teach users to spot, avoid and report dubious emails–it is necessary for every worker to understand that their roles provide them access to data, considered the currency of the information economy. Second, security teams have to implement, maintain and update their security technology and processes to detect and respond accordingly to spear-phishing threats in any and all forms it may evolve into. Lastly, security teams should strive to stay ahead of spear phishers by investing in high quality threat intelligence and expertise so their needs can be met.

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