Phishing has lasted so long as the main method of attack for multiple threats because it has continued to evolve. It has become more sophisticated over the years and has taken advantage of technologies like AI. The increase in the efficiency of these attacks has made them more difficult for the average person to spot. In a survey of Singaporeans, while 66% of consumers were aware of phishing attacks, only 4% could correctly identify all phishing emails. This form of attack is used for everything from ransomware to credential theft. Phishing is responsible for a large majority of data breaches and is one of the most important things to defend against when putting together a small business cybersecurity plan. In addition to phishing attack volume rising 281% in May of 2021 and another 284% in June, there are also several new disturbing new trends. Following are the dangerous new phishing attack trends that you and your employees need to watch out for and defend against.

Disgruntled Employees Offered Money for Credentials

One alarming attack trend is phishing messages being sent to employees from criminal groups with an offer of money if they hand over their login password for a company cloud account. Hackers are getting bolder now and just coming right out and making offers of cash for credentials in hopes of finding some disgruntled employees that would be willing to make that trade. Once a hacker gains legitimate access to an account as a user, they can do all sorts of things, depending on the platform. For example, with a login to a Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace account, they could:

  • Steal sensitive information
  • Infect cloud storage with ransomware
  • Send out phishing emails from an employee’s email address
  • Add and remove users
  • Elevate user privileges
  • Set up forwards for business emails
  • Change cloud account security settings

SMS Phishing (“Smishing”) Is Happening More Often

Phishing isn’t just happening via email. A growing number of phishing attacks are being done via text messaging. Users often get caught unaware because they don’t expect to get a fake phishing message via SMS. During the first half of 2021, there has been a 700% increase in smishing attacks. One of the most common scams is a fake delivery notice. People often sign up for text notification of orders they’ve placed so they know when to expect them to arrive. The SMS phishing links take users to malicious sites that either inject malware or serve up fake login pages designed to steal passwords. Smishing takes advantage of the shortened URLs that are usually used in text messages and the fact that you can’t hover over a URL the same way on a smartphone that you can with links in an email while on a computer.

Criminal Groups are Bringing in Initial Access Brokers

Phishing is becoming more sophisticated because it has become a revenue generator for large criminal groups and state-sponsored hacking organizations. These groups treat it like a business and continue optimizing attacks to be more efficient and make more money. One of the ways that attacks are being optimized is to use an initial access broker. This is a specialist brought in to get in the door of an organization. This happens through phishing campaigns designed to get that one click that can give access to a user account or unleash ransomware or another malware in a network. Investigators are seeing the use of initial access brokers more often in phishing attacks, which means companies need to fortify safeguards like DNS filtering, email filtering, and network monitoring.

Targeted Attacks Against Small Businesses are Increasing

Targeted phishing attacks are called “spear phishing.” This is when a hacking group puts in the extra effort of researching a company so the phishing campaign sent to them can be personalized, thus having a better chance of success. Spear phishing takes additional time and effort over a generic phishing attack, but hackers are finding out the effort is worth it for the payout. These types of targeted attacks used to only be done against larger organizations, but now criminals are also targeting small businesses in increasing volume. They’re able to now monetize things like business email compromise, along with ransomware, so it’s worth it to them to spend the additional effort due to the payout.

Monetization of Business Email Compromise (BEC)

A business email compromise is when a hacker gains access to a user’s email account. They go after managers and leadership accounts because those have a better chance of turning into cash if they can get employees to believe a phishing message. One of the popular ways to make money from BEC is to send emails to employees from a manager’s email address that ask them to purchase gift cards for either clients or some other reason. The email promises reimbursement and emphasizes that this needs to be done quickly. Once the employees reply to the email (which is from the email address of someone in the company they know), the hackers make off with the money. 

Are Your IT Security Safeguards Sufficient Against New Phishing Trends?

Managed IT Asia can help your Singapore business review your IT security safeguards and suggest improvements for any areas of risk. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation. Call +65 6748 8776 or reach us online.

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