Phishing attacks are one of the most common and damaging forms of cybercrime. Although many people are familiar with the basic concept of phishing, few realize just how many forms it can take. In this blog, we will discuss 19 different types of phishing attacks, providing examples of each to help you better understand, identify, and protect yourself from these malicious cyber threats.
1. Email Phishing
Email phishing is the most prevalent type of phishing attack. Cybercriminals send emails that appear to be from legitimate sources, such as your bank, internet provider, or favorite online retailer. These emails usually contain a link that leads you to a fraudulent website, where you’re asked to enter your personal information.
Sample email phishing attack:
Subject: Account Verification Required! Dear Customer, We recently noticed unusual activity on your account. To ensure your safety, we need you to verify your account by clicking here. Thank you, Your Bank
2. Spear Phishing
Spear phishing is a more targeted form of phishing, where the attacker personalizes the emails to make them more convincing. These emails might appear to come from someone you know or trust, such as a colleague or friend.
Sample spear phishing email:
Subject: Urgent: Invoice Payment Needed Hi [Your Name], I hope you're well. We had an issue with the last invoice payment, and our finance team needs it sorted out ASAP. Please review the invoice here and make the payment today. Best, [Your Colleague's Name]
Whaling targets high-level executives or individuals with access to sensitive information. The attacker sends an email that appears to be from a senior executive or a trusted authority figure, asking for sensitive information or a fund transfer.
Sample whaling email:
Subject: Urgent: Wire Transfer Needed [Your Name], Due to an unforeseen emergency, I need you to process a wire transfer of $25,000. Please find the details here and complete the transaction at your earliest convenience. Best, [CEO's Name]
Smishing is phishing done via SMS. The attacker sends a text message that appears to be from a legitimate source, usually containing a link to a fake website where the victim is asked to enter their personal information.
Sample smishing text:
Your Bank: Unusual activity detected on your account. Click here to verify your identity: [fraudulent link]
Vishing is phishing via voice call. The attacker leaves a voice message pretending to be from a legitimate source, such as a bank or an online retailer, instructing the victim to call back and provide personal information.
Sample vishing voice message:
Hi, this is a call from [Your Bank]. We've detected suspicious activity on your account. Please call us back at [fraudulent number] to verify your identity.
6. CEO Fraud
CEO fraud is a targeted spear phishing attack that pretends to be from the CEO or another high-level executive, usually requesting urgent action or sensitive information.
Sample CEO fraud email:
Subject: Confidential: Immediate Action Required Dear [Your Name], I need your assistance with a confidential financial matter. Please send me the financial reports for Q1 2023 at your earliest convenience. This matter is urgent. Regards, [CEO's Name]
7. Business Email Compromise (BEC)
In a BEC attack, the attacker poses as a trusted source like a supplier or vendor, usually requesting payment or sensitive information
Sample BEC attack email:
Subject: Invoice #12345 Dear [Your Name], We are writing to inform you of an error in our banking details. The payment for the attached invoice should be made to our new bank account. Please find the updated details here. Thank you for your understanding, [Your Vendor's Name]
Pretexting is when an attacker creates a believable scenario (the pretext) to trick the victim into revealing sensitive information.
Sample pretexting email:
Subject: IT Support: Password Update Dear [Your Name], We are performing a scheduled system upgrade. Please click here to update your password and ensure uninterrupted service. Best, IT Support
9. Angler Phishing
Angler phishing targets social media users. The attacker creates fake social media accounts and sends messages or posts links leading to fraudulent websites.
Sample angler phishing message:
Hi there! We noticed some unusual activity on your account. To keep your account safe, please verify your identity by clicking on this link: [fraudulent link]
10. Clone Phishing
In a clone phishing attack, the attacker creates a fraudulent website that closely resembles a legitimate one. They then send an email containing a link to this fake website, asking the victim to input their personal information.
Sample clone phishing email:
Subject: Account Update Needed Dear [Your Name], We have updated our system, and all users need to verify their accounts. Please click here to verify your account. Best, Your Bank
Pharming is when the attacker redirects the victim’s web traffic to a fraudulent website without their knowledge. The fake site usually looks identical to the legitimate one and asks for personal information.
Example of pharming:
In this case, you might type in your bank’s URL, but due to malware on your computer, you’re redirected to a fake site that looks just like your bank’s website.
12. HTTPS Phishing
HTTPS phishing occurs when an attacker creates a fake website with an HTTPS certificate, making it appear secure. The victim is then asked to enter their personal information on the fraudulent site.
Example of HTTPS phishing:
You receive an email prompting you to log into your account via a link that leads to an HTTPS-secured site. Despite the padlock in the address bar, the site is a fraudulent imitation of a legitimate site.
13. Pop-Up Phishing
Pop-up phishing involves the creation of pop-up windows on legitimate websites, asking for personal information.
Example of pop-up phishing:
While browsing your favorite news site, a pop-up appears claiming to be from your internet provider and asks you to log in to continue using the service.
14. Search Engine Phishing
Search engine phishing is when an attacker creates fake search engine results leading to fraudulent websites asking for personal information.
Example of search engine phishing:
You search for a popular online shopping site, but instead of clicking on the legitimate result, you click on a fraudulent one that closely resembles the legitimate site.
15. Malware-Based Phishing
Malware-based phishing involves the attacker sending an email with an attachment containing malware, such as ransomware or spyware.
Sample malware-based phishing email:
Subject: Your Order Confirmation Dear [Your Name], Thank you for your order! Please find your invoice attached. Best, Your Online Retailer
16. Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) Phishing
MitM phishing is when an attacker intercepts communication between two parties to steal personal information.
Example of MitM phishing:
log into your email account via a public Wi-Fi network. An attacker positioned between you and the Wi-Fi connection is able to capture your login credentials.
17. Content Injection Phishing
Content injection phishing involves the attacker injecting malicious code into legitimate websites, redirecting users to fraudulent websites asking for personal information.
Example of content injection phishing:
You visit a reputable news site, but the attacker has injected code into the site that redirects you to a fraudulent page asking you to sign in with your social media account to continue reading.
18. Evil Twin Phishing
Evil twin phishing involves the attacker setting up fake Wi-Fi hotspots in public places, tricking users into connecting and entering their personal information.
Example of evil twin phishing:
You’re at a coffee shop and connect to a free Wi-Fi network named after the coffee shop. You don’t realize this Wi-Fi network is a malicious one set up by an attacker, and you proceed to log into various accounts.
19. Watering Hole Phishing
Watering hole phishing is when the attacker infects legitimate websites with malware, targeting specific groups of users who visit those websites.
Example of watering hole phishing:
You work in the financial sector and frequently visit a popular industry blog. An attacker has identified this blog as a “watering hole” and has infected it with malware in the hope of compromising visitors’ computers.
Phishing attacks are ever-evolving, and cybercriminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their methods. By understanding the different types of phishing attacks and how they work, you can protect yourself and your organization from these cyber threats. Always exercise caution when asked for personal information online, double-check sources, and when in doubt, go directly to the source rather than clicking on links in emails or messages.
Remember, your first line of defense in cybersecurity is you. Stay informed, stay vigilant, and stay safe.