Phishing is one of the oldest and most flexible types of social engineering attacks. They are used in many ways, and for different purposes, to lure unwary users to the site and trick them into entering personal information. The latter often includes financial credentials such as bank account passwords or payment card details, or login details for social media accounts. In the wrong hands, this opens doors to various malicious operations, such as money being stolen or corporate networks being compromised. This makes phishing a popular initial infection method.
Phishing is a strong attack method because it is done at such a large scale. By sending massive waves of emails under the name of legitimate institutions or promoting fake pages, malicious users increase their chances of success in their hunt for innocent people’s credentials. The first six months of 2020, however, have shown a new aspect to this well-known form of attack.
Targeted attacks: small businesses in focus
As Kaspersky analysis has indicated, in Q2 2020, phishers increasingly performed targeted attacks, with most of their focus on small companies. To attract attention, fraudsters forged emails and websites from organisations whose products or services could be purchased by potential victims. In the process of making these fake assets, fraudsters often did not even try to make the site appear authentic.
Such targeted phishing attacks can have serious consequences. Once a fraudster has gained access to an employee's mailbox, they can use it to carry out further attacks on the company the employee works for, the rest of its staff, or even its contractors.
Jack of all trades: new tricks for old purposes
The news agenda, following the COVID-19 outbreak, has already influenced the “excuses” fraudsters use when asking for personal information. This included disguising their communications with unsuspecting users as:
“When summarising the results of the first quarter, we assumed that COVID-19 would be the main topic for spammers and phishers for the past few months. And it certainly happened. While there was the rare spam mailing sent out without mentioning the pandemic, phishers adapted their old schemes to make them relevant for the current news agenda, as well as come up with new tricks,” comments Tatyana Sidorina, security expert at Kaspersky.