Spear Phishing: A Common and Costly Threat to All Organizations

Spear phishing is currently one of the most serious threats to businesses of all sizes across all industries. Preventing successful spear phishing attacks should be a principal concern for all company owners and managers. Spear phishing, or the act of sending fraudulent emails that appear to be from a known or trusted sender in order to obtain sensitive information, is becoming increasingly common and can have disastrous implications for businesses due to the potential reward for a successful attack and the ease of which it can be implemented.

 Spear phishing can be viewed as a cyber crime double-play. Attackers have the ability to compromise the identity of one business and then use it to steal the personal information of another.  

Cyber attacks know no boundaries in today’s world. Hackers may want your login credentials to access bank accounts or protected files. They may go after social security numbers, leaving your employees and clients vulnerable to individual attack. They seek out many types of confidential information that can be used or sold, which can be obtained through deceptive spear phishing emails that utilize advanced social engineering tactics.

Businesses have a lot to lose in this unfair and malicious game. Currently, over 95% of all attacks on enterprise networks are the result of successful spear phishing (SANS Institute). Spear phishing is frequently a preliminary attack vector in data breaches and data theft, which have the potential to drain bank accounts and destroy reputations.

How to Recognize a Spear Phishing Email:

Although spear phishing campaigns utilize advanced social engineering technology to deceive recipients and gain access to confidential information, there are various best practices that email users should implement which will increase their chances of recognizing these malicious emails:

  • Verify shared links to ensure that they do not lead to fraudulent websites or malicious code.
  • Scan all attachments for viruses or dangerous code.
  • If an email looks suspicious in any way, make a phone call to the sender to confirm the legitimacy of the email.
  • Check for spelling and grammatical errors which can indicate that an email is not authentic. Also, keep an eye out for suspicious subject lines and signatures.
  • Think about each email you receive before clicking on links or downloading attachments. For example, ask yourself: Does an order confirmation email you’ve received correspond to a recent purchase you have made? Do the sender and recipient addresses make sense?

Guardian fedex fraud retouch 050419

The image to the right is a spear phishing email which was identified and quarantined by Guardian Digital EnGarde Email Security Gateway. It mimics a legitimate FedEx shipment confirmation email very closely, and is an especially dangerous email for this reason. Some indications that this is a fraudulent email include: 

  1. An invalid “From” email address
  2. Invalid tracking information which differs in the subject and in the body of the email
  3. A malicious attachment in the bottom left corner - FedEx does not send tracking information in the form of an attachment

These are spear phishing “red flags” that many people are not aware of, which is why investing in an advanced email security gateway is imperative to effective email protection.

Effective Spear Phishing Protection for Your Business

Employee training which promotes awareness of and education on spear phishing is an important aspect of protecting any organization; however, in order for it to be truly effective it must be coupled with an advanced, comprehensive email security solution.

Spear phishing techniques have evolved to become extremely stealthy and difficult to detect, and a business’s only real hope for avoiding the devastation that can result from a successful spear phishing attempt is a fully-managed, state-of-the-art email security gateway.

Guardian Digital’s Solution to Today’s Spear Phishing Epidemic

Guardian Digital, the only entirely open-source email security provider, has designed its EnGarde Email Security Gateway to effectively prevent spear phishing attempts and deliver greater than 99.8% protection against new and existing threats. EnGarde accurately identifies fraudulent and malicious emails. The gateway then quarantines these emails, preventing the potentially catastrophic effects of these emails reaching the inbox.

Because EnGarde is comprised of entirely open-source software and runs on our  hardened version of Linux, purpose-built specifically to protect our users, the gateway is inherently secure by design and offers higher levels of security, reliability, resiliency and cost-effectiveness than proprietary alternatives.

Email-related threats are increasingly dangerous and more prevalent than ever before. Luckily, these attacks can be thwarted with the proper technology. You can’t afford to be hit with a successful spear phishing campaign. Learn more about Guardian Digital EnGarde Email Security Gateway and invest in the next-generation phishing protection that your company needs: https://guardiandigital.com/engarde-email-security-gateway

Guardian Digital EnGarde Email Security Gateway Key Benefits:

  • Mitigates the risk associated with spear phishing and other advanced email threats
  • End-to-end email encryption and secure delivery
  • Protects employees against social engineering and impersonation attacks
  • Neutralizes threats associated with malicious attachments and links

Next Steps: How to Effectively Prevent Successful Spear Phishing Attacks

In addition to investing in an adaptive, comprehensive email security gateway, here are some email security best practices you should implement to further reduce your risk of falling victim to a spear phishing campaign:

  • Invest in security awareness training to educate employees on how to identify spear phishing emails and how to proceed if they feel that they have received a malicious email.
  • Only click on embedded links that you know are legitimate and safe.
  • Create strong, complex passwords that contain a mixture of letters, numbers and symbols. Never use the same password for multiple accounts.

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