5 Common Phishing Attacks and 5 Ways Not to Get Hooked
5 Common Phishing Attacks and 5 Ways Not to Get Hooked
Phishing attacks continue to be a problem for most companies. Here are some of the most common forms of phishing attacks, along with appropriate countermeasures.
You do not want to see these words in your email: "To unlock your files, you need to pay." For both enterprises and consumers, the risk of becoming a victim of ransomware is rising. Ransomware is a steadily growing form of malware that effectively holds a user's device or files at electronic gunpoint. It infects a machine and renders it unusable until a ransom is paid to either unlock the computer or decrypt the data. Levels of attacks can vary, often using scare tactics, deadlines and intimidation to trick victims into paying up. Most ransomware is distributed via attachments in emails.
The best defense against this increasingly popular crime is a good offense. Operating systems, firmware, software and applications must be patched and remain up to date to limit the vulnerabilities available for criminals to exploit. In addition, organizations should prepare for the worst by backing up systems regularly and investing in cyber-insurance so the business can make a full recovery in the event of a ransomware incident. You do not want to have to send this message: "Jane, I need you to wire these funds immediately."
Business Email Compromise (BEC)
Last month, the FBI warned that since January the total financial loss from BEC scams totaled a whopping $3 billion. This is a huge increase—in April, the FBI reported victims worldwide had lost $2.3 billion to BEC scams between October 2013 and February 2016. Savvy cyber-criminals are taking the time to harvest personal information and learn the processes within a company, because it pays off. Once armed with this information, they often pose as the CEO or CFO and target carefully selected employees with a spear-phishing email designed to get access to confidential business information or transfer money into an unknown account. Ubiquiti Networks' finance department was targeted by a fraudulent request from an outside entity that resulted in $46.7 million being transferred to an overseas account held by external third parties after an employee was impersonated.
To counter the threat of this attack, organizations must introduce policies that ensure no one person or single email can authorize transactions. Instead, there must be a mixture of communication channels verifying any request for confidential or financial information. In addition, companies should implement a technology-based solution that reduces the likelihood of these spear-phishing emails being successfully delivered to employees.
Data Breach of Confidential Employee Information
Be on the lookout for this type of message: "We are conducting an employee audit, please send all of the W-2 forms to me." During the last year, there has been a trend in spear-phishing attacks that aim to steal valuable employee payroll information. Every other day, it seems, another major company confirms it was a victim of a "W-2 scam," including Snapchat and Seagate. While having a seemingly low financial impact on a brand, this type of breach can cause damage to the internal and external reputation of a company. A common misconception is that these scams happen during tax time, but in fact they are likely to continue throughout the year. This is because they allow cyber-criminals access to important security and credit information that, if done under the radar, can impact numerous people.
Data Breach Countermeasures
Unfortunately, the one-two punch of a data breach means that the worst may not yet be over for employees who have had their personal details stolen. Identity theft often follows data breaches as hackers use the confidential information they have accessed in the initial attack to facilitate a variety of frauds. To better protect themselves, organizations should adopt the mindset of an adversary and regularly review the data stored within the enterprise to ensure strong controls, such as encryption, are in place. In addition, they should leverage advanced, multilayered security technologies to introduce controls and minimize the risk of susceptibility to an attack.
Beware of this message: "Please log in here to reactivate your account." When it comes to spear-phishing, enterprises are not the only targets. Increasingly, fraudsters are targeting specific individuals with sophisticated spoofs pretending to be from government departments, banks and major brands. In March alone, the number of unique phishing email reports (campaigns) received by the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG, www.antiphishing.org) from consumers was nearly 300,000. Often the emails will have "Attention," "Important Notification" or "Your account has been revoked" in the subject line, and the growing reliance on email means it's becoming progressively difficult for consumers to distinguish between mimics and genuine correspondence.
Consumer Fraud Countermeasures
The onus is on businesses to protect their brand reputations and restore trust in the email inbox. Any organization that relies on email to communicate with its customers, citizens or members needs to implement DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance, www.dmarc.org), an open industry standard developed to prevent spoofing of email addresses. Because a DMARC implementation can generate an overwhelming amount of raw data, businesses should consider working with a proven cyber-security partner to help streamline the process and navigate the data.
Politically Motivated Phishing and Hacktivism
The threat of cyber-criminals pursuing a political agenda and seeking to disrupt critical infrastructures has been well-documented. However, hacktivists are now increasingly relying on high volumes of email communication to provide a new window of opportunity for attack. These are not only aimed at politicians; evidence has emerged that sophisticated phishing scams have been aimed at targets as diverse as Hillary Clinton and industrial control companies. Symantec recently revealed a Trojan, called Laziok, that was targeted at workers in the energy industry across the UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, United States, the UK and Uganda. The Trojan masqueraded as an Excel spreadsheet, spreading malware that observed and reported device data.
With cyber-attacks remaining one of the biggest threats to privacy, national security and the global economy, greater collaboration and information-sharing between the public and private sectors is needed. President Barack Obama has encouraged this cooperation a number of times in conferences and presentations on cyber-security. It's also imperative that anyone with valuable digital assets assume that they are vulnerable to sophisticated cyber-criminals, who change their tactics and techniques on a daily basis. While there is no single measure that can counter politically motivated attacks, having a multilayered approach to security practices will put organizations in a better position to mitigate attacks and reduce the impact of any breaches.