What Do Virtually All Phishing Emails Have in Common
What Do Virtually All Phishing Emails Have in Common

What are the commonalities of Phishing emails? Understanding the commonalities of Phishing Emails will help you quickly recognize them and prevent them from becoming a threat to your computer.

What’s phishing?

Hackers use phishing to obtain personal information via deceptive websites and e-mails. This attack uses disguised email to its advantage.

It is intended to fool the target into believing the message is genuine. You could make it look like a letter from a senior member of their company. Sometimes, they may look like a request from the bank. The victim may be directed to download an attachment, or click on a link.

Phishing emails can however be distinguished and easily identified by anyone who is knowledgeable about the characteristics of this type of cyber-attack.

Phishing emails are most likely to come from a real person, trusted entity or company with whom the target is likely do business.

Since the 1990s, phishing attacks have been a part of cyberattacks. Although phishing attacks have been around for a while, they are getting more sophisticated and sinister at a rapid technological advancement rate.

Phishing, particularly during crisis situations like SARS and COVID-19, is still one of black-hat’s most popular and exploited methods.

We will discuss some striking similarities among various phishing email. We’ll be looking at several types of phishing attacks. We’ll discuss the most common vulnerabilities and how to protect your company from such security incidents.

Phishing Kit

A phishing tool is a set of software tools that make it easy for those with limited or no technical skills to carry out an attack. A typical phishing tool is composed of website development software that has a simple, low-code graphical user interface.

A phishing kit includes graphics, sample scripts, email templates, and other tools that attackers can use to create legitimate correspondences. Some kits include telephone numbers and a list with vulnerable e-mail addresses.

Phishing

All phishing emails share one thing in common: the disguise. The disguise is used by attackers to make it appear that the email comes from a legitimate user. They may also create fake websites to look like the legitimate ones that are trusted by the target. They may disguise URLs using foreign characters in some cases.

With this in mind, we can categorize various types of attacks as Phishing attacks. There are many ways to classify an attack, such as the purpose, the intrusion technique, and so forth. Phishing emails generally aims to accomplish two things.

  • The attacker can use this information to easily hack into a system or account by tricking the victim.
  • Download malware. This is where the attacker attempts to trick the target into installing malware or a local access trojan to infect their computers.

A phishing email may be sent to an HR representative with an attachment claiming to be a resume of job seekers. Most attachments come in.zip files, or Microsoft Office documents that are embedded with malicious codes and links.

1. Email Phishing

Email is the most common method of phishing attacks. These techniques involve the hacker creating a fake domain to imitate a legitimate organization, and then sending a lot of generic requests through the mail to an identified target. To make the fraudulent substitution, characters such as ‘n/r’ (‘rn) are replaced with close to one another to make it appear as if they were’m’. Sometimes, the crooks might decide to use the name of the organization in the domain, such alibaba@outlook.com. This is in the hope that it will appear in the target’s email as ALIBABA.

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There are many ways to identify a Phishing email. By the end of this article you should be able spot one quickly. This will allow you to help others identify Phishing email.

It is a good idea to always carefully examine the email address in any message asking you for a download or link.

2. Whale watching

Senior executives are the targets of whaling attacks. Whaling attacks are subtler than other forms of phishing attacks, despite having the same goal.

The technique does not use fake URLs or malicious URLs to breach a system because it is only used on highly-profile employees within an organization.

In recent years, there have been an increasing number of whaling attacks against various sectors that involved bogus tax returns. Hackers have a lot of access to tax forms. These forms contain valuable information like social security numbers, addresses and bank account information. They also include the target’s full name.

3. Smiling and Vishing

Telephones can be used to replace email when hacking targets using either vishing techniques or smishing.

A cybercriminal uses text messages to send phishing messages to a target via telephone. The message is written and tuned exactly as an email. The goal is to convince victims that the message comes from a trusted source.

Vishing attacks are when a cybercriminal tricks its target by calling them.

Hackers often use bogus fraud investigators to carry out vishing attacks. An attacker might pretend to be a bank employee or a card company to inform the victim about compromised accounts.

4. Spear Phishing

Spear Phishing is an advanced attack that involves email. This is a technique to hack a particular person. These cyber-criminals already have information about their targets.

  • Name and physical address
  • Placement of employment
  • Job title
  • Particular information on duty at work
  • Email address

Spear phishing was used to hack the Democratic National Committee. This attack is one of the most damaging phishing attacks. The first round of attacks consisted in sending malicious emails to over 1 000 addresses. A greater percentage of members of the committee shared their passwords during the second wave of attacks.

5. Angler Phishing

Hackers have a new way to attack. You can use fake URLs, posts, tweets and cloned sites, instant messaging techniques, and other methods to persuade people not to download malware or reveal sensitive information.

Bill Gates and Elon Musk are two of the most prominent figures whose Twitter accounts were recently used to launch attacks. This latest attack was carried out using bitcoins and a message encouraging targets to give back to the society.

Highly targeted attacks can also be made from data that people have willingly shared. A group of hackers carried out a sophisticated attack on Facebook in 2016. Facebook users were notified by messages that they had been mentioned within a post. This message was sent by cyber-criminals. Clicking the link would download malware or Trojan onto their computers. The second stage of the attack involved the compromise of the target’s Facebook account. They used the compromised browser to gain access to their Facebook account. They were able to hack into several accounts and steal sensitive data. Then they spread the infection to their friends via their Facebook accounts.

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What are Phishing Emails in Common?

1. The message is sent from a public email domain

An address ending with “@gmail.com” is not allowed to be used by any legitimate organization. These addresses are not allowed by Google. Even small companies have company accounts and domains. Google, for example, is more likely to use “@google.com” when they send legitimate emails to clients. If the domain names match the sender’s, then the message is likely to be genuine.

By entering the company name into a trusted search engine, you can verify the domain name of an organization. This makes it easy to spot phishing emails. Cybercriminals are far more sophisticated, so it is important to be vigilant in order to spot them.

Important tip: Pay attention to the email address, not just the sender.

Below is a fake PayPal phishing email. Many crooks are able to create fake email addresses. They can even choose a display name that is not related to the email.

This email is almost flawless. It’s professionally designed and is believable. It uses PayPal’s logo as the header of the email, which makes it invisible to an ‘ignorant target’. However, there’s a huge red flag; the sender’s address is noted as ‘paypal@notice-access-273.com’ instead of having an organization name in the domain to indicate that it had come from an individual at PayPal, for instance, (@) PayPal.

Hackers maximize the ignorance of their targets. In most cases, just including a company name in the message is enough to fool people. A targeted individual might be satisfied just by looking at the PayPal word in the email address. Some people may not be able to distinguish between the address’s domain name and its local portion.

2. These emails are badly written and have an unusual tone.

Any email sent from unknown or known sources should be flagged for poor grammar and spelling. Some believe that these errors are caused by an inefficient “filtering” system. However, hackers use this technique to exploit the weakest targets. This is because if an individual can’t pick minor clues in the initial stages of intrusion, it is most likely that they will not be able pick clues during the scammer’s endgame.

Automated Attacks

Hackers don’t need to monitor email inboxes or send targeted responses when executing a Phishing attack. They prefer to randomly drop thousands of carefully crafted messages on unsuspecting victims in order to reach a larger audience and lure more people.

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Use this tip to find spelling and grammar errors

Hackers will often use a spell-checker or translation machine to create phishing messages. These apps can provide the correct words with accuracy close to 100 but do not always place the words in the right context.

The image above, for example, is a phishing scam that imitates windows. Except for minor grammar errors, every word is correctly spelled.

Everybody makes mistakes typing, especially in hurry. However, you should be able examine the error carefully if it is a sign of something more serious.

3. These attachments and links are suspect

Phishing emails can be launched in many forms. While this article focuses on email phishing scams, scammers may also use social media posts, text messages, phone calls, and social media posts.

No matter what channel or methods phishing emails are sent, they always contain a payload. Every phishing email contains links to infected attachments or bogus websites, prompting users to download them.

Infected attachments are any documents that contain malware. Here is an example of a phisher pretending to send an invoice.

It is impossible to see the contents of the message until the recipient opens the attachment. This applies regardless of whether or not the recipient expected to receive an invoice. The message will not be addressed to the recipient. However, once the attachment is opened, it will become apparent that malware has been installed on their computer.

4. The message is urgent and prompts action.

Hackers know that most people are procrastinators. The message is important, but most people will not pay attention to it.

According to the law of nature, the more you focus or think about something, the more likely it is that you will notice something is wrong. Perhaps you discover that the claimed company didn’t reach you at the same address or that you and your colleagues did not receive the email. Even if you don’t get the “Aha!!” moment, it is worth reading the message again to discover its true nature.

These phishing emails ask that you take action immediately to avoid losing your chance. This trait is evident in nearly every example we have used.

These phishing scams can be very dangerous and sinister.

5. They also have oddly generic greetings

Phishing scammers send phishing emails to millions of people every day. They rely heavily on phishing applications or tools to generate phishing templates because of this high volume. The most common greetings are “Dear Customer”, which implies “Your Company” and “Your Bank.” These sensitive emails should contain more information about you, as they come from someone you know better, such as a friend or colleague who worked at the same place.

Teach your employees how to avoid phishing

Knowledge is power and education is power. Remind your employees regularly of the things they should look for when handling information or mails within the company. It doesn’t have to be a program of awareness. A few posters placed around the office may suffice.

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Evangeline Christina is a Cyber Security Enthusiast, Security Blogger, Technical Editor, Certified Ethical Hacker, Author at Cyberspecial.net. Previously, he worked as a security news reporter in a reputed news agency.

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