When most people think of cyber-attacks and data breaches, they think of a hooded hacker hammering away at the keyboard in a dark corner somewhere using complex commands to get past firewalls and steal passwords.
The reality is that imposter emails, or phishing emails, are the most common entry point for hackers. And unfortunately, the perpetrators of this simple scam don’t have to know a lick of code to pull it off.
The Urgent Request
Phishing emails play to our innate psychology. By impersonating a person or organization with a high level of authority—and urging immediate action—these emails are dangerously persuasive. Whether these emails threaten loss, punishment or added risk, researchers tell us that urging immediate action changes our focus to the singular task and, in the process, lowers our guard.
1. “Restart Your Membership”
According to the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG), 2016 was the worst year for phishing in history with reported phishing attacks increasing 65% over those of 2015. In addition, according to Wombat Security’s 2016 State of the Phish report, spear-phishing attacks (attacks which contain personalized information about your or the supposed sender), increased 22% from 2015.
2. “Update Your Official Record”
3. “Click to Learn More”
4. “You Missed a Delivery”
Click on your tracking number and your device is immediately infected with malware.
5. “Confirm Your Account”
6. “Your Account Has Been Locked”
These “Account Issues” emails take the user to dummy login pages, where the hacker conveniently — and easily — grabs login credentials, and therefore back account, credit card numbers, and more.
7. “Suspended Account”
Unexpected Refunds & Payments
It’s against our every instinct to ignore free money, and hackers exploit this with refund offers.
8. “Tax Refund”
9. “Refund Due to System Error”
10. “Click to See Your Revised Salary”
Spear-Phishing emails may not have the stolen logos and email templates of phishing emails, but what they do have can be even more dangerous: inside information. Spear-phishers study their victims in advance, learning names, organizational structure, and even workplace culture to try to keep the victim from raising red flags.
11. Sent “From” Recipient’s Bank
12. Sent “From” Recipient’s CFO
13. Sent “From” Recipient’s CEO
14. Sent “From” Recipient’s CEO
15. Sent “From” Recipient’s CEO
Two More Examples:
Whaling emails, or spear-phishing emails targeting high-level executives, masquerade as a critical business email from a legitimate person of authority. These emails play on our respect for these individuals and take advantage of the lack of formality that sometimes accompanies their requests.
16. Sent to VP “From” Their CEO
17. Sent to Controller “From” Their CEO (Also CCing Their Accountant)
All It Takes is One Click
In summary, be wary of free money and urgent requests. Cross-check unexpected emails from people in authority over the phone or in person before sharing or downloading information.
Many phishing emails only need one click to give the hacker access to your otherwise secure systems. If you’ve recently clicked on a sensitive email or want to protect your company and employees from phishing, contact Corsica Technologies today to speak with an email security professional.