What is Trap Phishing? (And How To Stop It)
- by Brittany Day
There's a stealthy type of phishing on the rise known as trap phishing that tricks users into clicking on a link or downloading an attachment by impersonating a familiar entity, such as a trusted organization or colleague. A successful trap phishing attack can have severe consequences for both individuals and organizations.
Attackers can gain access to sensitive information, such as login credentials, financial data, and personal information, which can be used for identity theft, fraud, or other malicious purposes. We'll define trap phishing in greater detail, provide an example of a real-life attack, as well as provide best practices to prevent a scheme from impacting your business.
Phishing vs. Trap Phishing
Trap phishing is an intelligence-gathering tool cybercriminals use to trick users into clicking on a malicious link or downloading an attachment. This is one of the most significant cyber threats modern organizations face. In 2021, researchers found that 83% of organizations experienced a successful email-based phishing attack.
Phishing is an attack in which an attacker sends out fraudulent email or text messages purporting to come from trusted sources (like banks and social media platforms). The messages include links that lead users to fake websites that mimic real ones - with links directing users there after clicking. Once on these websites, users are often required to enter sensitive data (such as login credentials or credit card numbers), which the attacker then steals for themselves. Phishing attacks also can use social engineering techniques in order to trick their victims into divulging this sensitive data.
Trap phishing is a more sophisticated type of attack that involves creating a fake website designed to look similar to one with legitimate intent. An attacker then waits for users to try accessing this legitimate website but mistype the URL or click on a malicious link, redirecting them instead to the trap phishing site where they're asked for login credentials or sensitive data - the attacker then uses this data against them to steal identity or commit fraud. Trap phishing can be harder to detect than traditional forms as users don't actively seek out this type of attack.
How Does A Trap Phishing Attack Happen?
Trap phishing is a technique used by cybercriminals to trick users into downloading malware or clicking on a link to malware. The first step involves sending out general emails, phone calls, and messages to the public; it's also common for individual organizations to be targeted.
After the attacks have been sent out, the attacker waits for a user to respond; the type of response depends on the type of communication the user has received. The response comes in many forms, like clicking on phishing links, downloading an attachment, or giving out personal information.
If you respond to the attack, there are consequences that vary. The attacker could use the personal information to steal money/information and can even sell it to a third party. The attacker could also take control of your system by installing malware on your device.
There are different types of trap phishing that cybercriminals use to trick users into downloading malware or clicking on a link to malware. Some types to be aware of are:
- Content Injection: Content injection is a type of smishing scam that entails embedding harmful code, such as ransomware, into the content of a genuine website. This implies that the text and images visible on the web page remain unaltered. However, when the user clicks on the link, they are redirected to the scammer's website instead of the intended website.
- CEO Fraud: Business Email Compromise (BEC), also known as CEO fraud or whaling, is a form of phishing that specifically aims at high-ranking executives in companies. The phishing starts with a hacker creating a malicious email account looking similar to a CEO's email address. The hacker sends an email to an employee that seems important (often including a sense of urgency). When the employee opens the email and clicks on the included link/attachment, it directs them to the hacker's malicious website they can control. Now, the hacker has access to company resources and possibly confidential information. They can then use this information to their advantage (stealing money, information, etc).
- Spear Phishing: This type of trap phishing is highly targeted and personalized. The attacker researches the target and creates a fake email or website that appears to come from a trusted source, such as a colleague or friend. The email or website contains a link that, when clicked, downloads malware onto the user's device.
- Vishing: Vishing, short for voice phishing, is a type of phishing that involves using the telephone system instead of email to contact victims. The aim of vishing is to deceive people into divulging private information such as passwords, account numbers, or credit card details. The scammers achieve this by posing as authorized representatives of legitimate companies. Vishing phone calls can take various forms. Some vishing callers impersonate legitimate companies such as banks and retailers, while others pretend to be from government agencies like the IRS or police departments.
How Can I Prevent An Attack?
While phishing prevention sounds like it can be difficult, one of the first steps for prevention is awareness. Prevention also depends on the types of attacks your company could be experiencing. Some tips to prevent trap phishing attacks:
- Be cautious when clicking on links or downloading attachments from unknown sources. It is important to verify the authenticity of the sender and the content before clicking on any links or downloading any attachments.
- Keep your software and security systems up-to-date. This can help detect and prevent trap phishing attacks by identifying and blocking suspicious activity.
- Use multi-factor authentication. This adds an extra layer of security by requiring two or more forms of identification, such as a verification code sent to your phone, before granting access to your account.
- Use anti-phishing software. This type of software can help detect and block phishing emails and websites before they can cause harm.
- Educate yourself and your employees. Knowing the latest techniques used by cybercriminals can help you identify and avoid trap phishing attacks.
- Safeguard against human error with a comprehensive cloud email security solution that provides protection against the most targeted and sophisticated phishing scams.
Marketing Automation Platform Suffers Multiple Attacks Within Months of Each Other
Earlier this month, Mailchimp encountered a new data breach that resulted in the loss of one of its clients. The breach was a result of a trap phishing attack that targeted Mailchimp's users involved in cryptocurrency. The attackers employed advanced phishing and social engineering techniques to gain unauthorized access to 214 Mailchimp accounts. In the course of the attack, the threat actors used password reset methods to compromise DigitalOcean accounts. Although some customer passwords were successfully changed, the trap phishing attack was thwarted by two-factor authentication, which prevented the attackers from gaining further access.
Keep Learning About Trap Phishing And Stay Alert
Trap phishing is a serious threat that requires constant vigilance and attention. If a phishing campaign isn't stopped quickly, it can have a lasting impact on your organization. Providing your staff with training, having the right protocols, and staying informed and alert online can greatly reduce the risk of falling victim to an attack.
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