What is the difference between phishing and spear phishing?

What is the difference between phishing and spear phishing

Cyber security is vital for your business’s safety. Unfortunately, cybercriminals can quickly and easily hack, unleash malicious software and plunder your business network. This will not only cause your business to stop functioning but will lose its credibility and cost so much to repair again.

It’s vital to have the right security and educate yourself and your staff about the different types of attacks there are out there to prevent an attack from taking place.

The cyber security landscape and terminology can be complicated to understand. However, once you know how many different types of attacks there are and the severity of them, only then will you and your staff take cyber security more seriously.

You may have already heard the term phishing, but have you encountered spear phishing?

This is what we will discuss in this blog, carry on reading to discover more.

What is phishing?

A phishing email is an email sent with malicious intent. The intentions include infecting your PC and taking sensitive information out of you. Unfortunately, we are all sent them and most of the time don’t even realise.

The cybercriminal will pretend to be a legitimate business, such as your boss or an external company you work with. They will send you an email pretending to be that person and ask you to open the email or click on the link in it.

If you open the attachment, it will cause your PC to be affected. If you click on the link, you will be sent to a fake website or taken to a malicious page. You might be asked to log in using your credentials or bank details. Imagine if a cyber criminal had access to this kind of information…

You may be thinking, I wouldn’t do something like that, but phishing emails from cyber criminals have become so sophisticated that they are incredibly difficult to spot.

To protect yourself from phishing emails, you and your team need to learn how to spot them. Click here to learn how to spot a phishing email.

Alternately, sending your staff fake phishing emails as a test is a great way to train them to be prepared for when an actual phishing email lands in their inbox. We have a product, KnowBe4, that does exactly this; if you’re interested, get in touch on 01273 806211.

Moving on, let’s take a look into what spear phishing is…

What is spear phishing?

Spear phishing, also known as blagging, is a social engineering technique based on the slang phrase “to blag.” This involves using creativity and storytelling to create a convincing online presence that speaks to your potential customers.

The cybercriminal could pretend to be you and have discussions with your clients or prospects on social media accounts; this increases the chances of the victim disclosing critical or sensitive information that wouldn’t normally be shared.

Some fraudsters use open-source intelligence and details about their victims to create a fake scenario to lure the victim into revealing sensitive information.

Imagine if someone was pretending to be you on your email account. For example, if you worked for a bank, a cybercriminal could easily pretend to be emailing the customer back and forth, stating there is an issue with a payment and could ask them for their bank details. Without thinking, the customer could easily hand over their bank details because they will think it’s you.

What is the difference between phishing and spear phishing?

Phishing and spear phishing attacks have the same intent and outcome, but there are a few differences between them. A lot more thought and planning goes into spear phishing attacks because they are usually targeted and only sent to one person. In comparison, phishing emails are usually more generic and can’t be sent out to multiple people at once.

What both of these attacks have in common is that they are a great threat to your business; it’s vital that you do all you can to prevent them from being successful. One thing you can do is learn how to spot spear phishing and phishing emails.

How to spot a spear phishing or phishing email?

Check the name and domain of an email address

We often only see the sender’s name when we receive an email and don’t pay much attention to the email address itself. The attacker is very likely to be able to spoof the email address of a person who sends regular updates.

When someone sends you an email asking you to share sensitive information, such as passwords or other login details that are not supposed to be shared via email or proper verification, they could be trying to hack into your accounts.

For instance, if the hacker knows that someone receives a lot of emails from [email protected], it will send him an email from the same email address, pretending to be from you. Therefore, it’s vital to verify the sender’s name as well.

Check the spelling, grammar and format within an email

Often there will be spelling and grammar mistakes within a Phishing email, making it obvious that it’s a Phishing email.

An advanced-level spear phishing email attack can be harder to detect because the cybercriminal manages to spoof both the name and email address of someone you know or believe. In this case, you’ll need to also turn to the email format; it can give you some indication about whether the email is legitimate.

If you email people regularly, you’ll notice they stick to a similar format within their email, perhaps adding a smiley face now and again. However, if you receive a very blunt urgent email from them, this will stand out; such an email can be a spear phishing attempt to trick you into sharing sensitive information.

Call the sender

In the case of phishing and spear phishing emails, the email will contain an urgent message, wanting you to act quickly. We recommend you pick up the phone and call the sender to get them to confirm whether it is a legitimate email from them.

Overall, both Phishing and Spear Phishing attacks are lethal and must be prevented at all costs.

If you are concerned about your business and would like to discuss cyber security, speak to one of our experts today who can assist you. Call 01273 806211 or email [email protected].

Alternatively, we are hosting a cyber security webinar this month – Cyber Security: How to protect your business. Click here to sign up and discover more about cyber secuirty.