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 impostor 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.

Given the success rate of phishing attacks, phishing emails will continue to be a growing problem for business and consumers alike. Here are just a few examples of phishing emails in use over the past year:

Download Our Guide On Spotting Phishing Email Examples

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”

A link embedded in an email simply saying click hear to learn more, read more, take action and etc..

 4. “You Missed a Delivery”

Another example of phishing is sending out a phishing email for UPS tracking slip.

Click on your tracking number and your device is immediately infected with malware.

5. “Confirm Your Account”

Embedded into your email with a button saying things like Review & Verify your account. Once you click this your computer is affected with malware within seconds.

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”

This article here goes into great detail on how to avoid IRS scams during tax season.  

9. “Refund Due to System Error”

Emails from “Major Retailers” will state things like Amazon offers refund, click here to receive your full refund.

 10. “Click to See Your Revised Salary”

Employer Fraud Phishing Example 2016 Salary Notice Human Resources Benefits

Spear-Phishing: Phishing Based on Research

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

Leigh University does a great job keeping an updated collection of recent phishing examples on their site here.

12. Sent “From” Recipient’s CFO

Cyber Criminals are now sending phishing emails by using contacts within your organization in hopes that you will click on them making you vulnerable to revealing personal information.  Craig McDonald provides more insight here on LinkedIn.

13. Sent “From” Recipient’s CEO

Requesting All Employees W-2’s Spear Phish Email CEO Fraud.

14. Sent “From” Recipient’s CEO

Fraudsters spoof executive leaders in email phishing attempts. Stu Sjouwerman, chief executive at security awareness training company KnowBe4 had an attempt with an email received by an employee requesting a copy of all W-2’s for this year. 

15. Sent “From” Recipient’s CEO

“Hi, I need you to process a wire transfer to a new vendor. Please let me know when you can get it done.”  Augusta, GA Spear-Phishing Email CEO Fraud 2017; Source: Corsica Technologies

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

Phishing attacks can take many names, from CEO Fraud, to Whaling and Business Email Compromise.

17. Sent to Controller “From” Their CEO (Also CCing Their Accountant)

Cyberhackers have launched CEO Fraud version 2.o sending employees emails request items like “Please Send our W2 Documents for all employees to… I have CC’d him here. Please send Immediately.”  Frank McKenna published an article here going more into detail about CEO Fraud 2.o.

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.

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