What Is Spear Phishing? Spear Phishing Definition & Prevention

Spear phishing is a form of social engineering that uses fake emails to trick targeted individuals into revealing personal and confidential information like account numbers, passwords, and login credentials. This information can then be used for fraud or identity theft. In recent years, spear phishing has been used in a variety of different contexts including political, financial, and military.

Spear phishing scams are dangerous because they target employees with the intention to steal sensitive information from the company. These emails have a link that directs the user to a fake website that looks like the company’s real website. Once on the fake website, the user is asked to enter his or her username and password. This is then sent to the hacker and the user’s information is stolen.


What Is Spear Phishing?

Many people are concerned with the privacy of their personal information and how that information is used by online companies. In the case of spear phishing, hackers send targeted emails and text messages to establish a connection with their victims in order to access their personal information and passwords. Targeted individuals are often hired by companies and often have access to sensitive information; this is why they are targeted. Spear phishing is very common in the workplace as employees are often targeted with an email that appears to be from a coworker or boss requesting personal or financial information.

So, What Is Spear Phishing? Spear phishing is a variation of phishing in which a hacker uses contact information and other data from the target’s organization. The email usually looks legitimate and often contains links to websites that look legitimate, too. Unless you know the sender, don’t click on the link.

Hackers create “spear” emails that appear to be from a respected employee of an organization. This often includes the employee’s name and title.

The hacker emails everyone in the target organization, both employees and investigators. The email contains an attachment that installs a malicious software program. The hacker uses the victim’s organization’s computers to transmit damaging information and information used to steal.


Signs of a phishing email


Warning signs of a phishing email:

  • The email contains spelling or grammar errors, which would show that the sender did not take the time to proofread the email thoroughly.
  • The email is vague or nonexistent, and does not contain the contact information of the Sender.
  • When you click a link in an email, you are taken to a website that looks legitimate. However, the URL in the browser should show the URL of a trusted website.
  • The email contains a link requesting information that you know should not be shared.
  • The email asks you to make an immediate decision, such as click on a link or enter personal information.
  • The email asks for more information than you asked the Sender to provide. For example, if the Sender only asked for your phone number, you should not see a list of shipping addresses.
  • The email asks you to open an attachment that contains a virus or other harmful program.
  • The email asks you to take action immediately.
  • The email asks you to visit a website that is not a trusted site, such as your bank.


How to Prevent Spear Phishing

While spear phishing is an old and well-known tactic, the purpose of this blog is to share some techniques to prevent it and minimize the chances you might fall victim to this kind of phishing scam. Spear phishing is a technique used by hackers to try to trick recipients into giving information that is used for malicious purposes like identity theft. A phishing email will usually use a fake email from a trusted source, like your bank, to try to get you to give your login and password information.


To help prevent phishing attacks, there are a number of things you can do.


  1. Never click on links in emails.

Hackers can create emails that look like they’re from a trusted source. Before you click any links and log in to any sites, use your mouse to hover over the link. If it’s an unfamiliar website, do not click it.


  1. Check if the sender is a trusted source.

When you receive an email that appears to be from a trusted source, it’s a good idea to double-check to make sure this is true. Check out the company’s website, search their name online, and report any suspicious emails to your organization’s IT department.


  1. Change your passwords.

Hackers often use the same password for multiple accounts. If you check to see if a password you used was exposed in a data breach, change all your passwords as soon as possible.


  1. Monitor your bank and credit card statements.

A lot of data breaches involve stealing information directly from the bank or credit card company. Check for suspicious charges and contact your bank immediately.


  1. Check your credit.

If your personal information was exposed in a data breach, check your credit file for free with services like Credit Karma.


  1. Use antivirus software.

Make sure you have the most up-to-date version of antivirus software on your computer. If you use a lot of other public Wi-Fi hot spots, consider using a virtual private network (VPN) to protect your personal information when accessing public networks.


  1. Install firewalls.

Firewalls can help block malware and protect you from hackers. Most devices have a firewall built-in, like your router, so it’s good practice to double-check that it’s enabled.


  1. Use strong passwords.

A good password includes a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. But do not follow this trend to use a password like “password” or “123456.” Use a combination of words, characters, numbers and symbols to make it difficult for a hacker to guess your password.


Phishing vs. Spear Phishing

Phishing is when a cybercriminal sends an email to a user, pretending to be a legitimate organization, in an effort to obtain information such as passwords, credit card numbers, etc. Spear phishing is when a cybercriminal sends an email to a user, pretending to be a member of the real organization, in an effort to obtain information that could be used to gain access to the victim’s system, such as passwords and login credentials.


What types of phishing emails do?

Email spoofing

Email spoofing is when a real sender’s address is used to send a fake email. An email spoofing attack can be disguised as a phishing attempt, but emails can spoof as other types of messages as well. For example, an email spoofing attack can look like an invoice that a company sent you, but it may contain a virus.


URL spoofing

URL spoofing occurs when cyber criminals use spammy emails to trick you into thinking that the URL you’re being directed to is the official website or legitimate page associated with the company.


Social engineering

Social engineering is the process by which someone manipulates another individual into giving up confidential information, such as passwords, account numbers, usernames, etc.


Phishing attacks on businesses

Spear phishing emails are often used by hackers to gain information or gain access to a company’s computers. Once the hackers gain access, they can use malware to steal sensitive data or conduct a data breach.


Email spoofing attacks on employees

Email spoofing has been used to steal information from employees and entice them to click on a link or open an attachment. These emails may be sent to internal email addresses, such as a company’s CEO, CFO, or IT manager.

Conclusion: The best way to protect yourself from spear phishing attacks is to avoid opening suspicious emails. Always type in the web address or check the URL that you’re directed to before clicking on it. Also, never click on links or open attachments from unrecognized emails.

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