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Smarter Phishing poses new threat

Phishing methods are getting smarter by the day. INDI SIRINIWASA, VP of Trend Micro, Sub-Saharan Africa, outlines the latest variants of phishing scams that are targeting users.



We have all seen how machine learning has certainly made cybersecurity a lot better. There are countless more advanced tools, however, that cybercriminals continue to develop to counter the defences. However, hackers find the most success with good old phishing techniques – and they are getting a lot better at it.

Phishing has led to a number of companies losing not just money, but credibility as well. And all it takes for massive financial damage to occur is just one successful phishing email.

There’s been an evolution in phishing techniques. Phishing emails are sent through a variety of infrastructure, making use of different URLs or IP addresses or even a different domain. Many of these emails contain malware and the goal of the hacker is to get personal information, usernames and passwords. This information is either used in an attack or sold to other hackers.

Compromised email accounts are often used to spread malicious links and downloads both inside and outside an enterprise or organisation. Hackers have begun to use several different modes of email attack, namely short, which is only active for a few minutes; extended, which is considerably longer and “serial variant” which is active for several days at time at a low volume.

As these phishing techniques grow in their innovation and sophistication, it will serve us all to be become more vigilant. This can only be done through awareness and training so that staff know how to recognise phishing emails and social engineering. Of course there are a number of defences you can employ that will detect malware, but don’t underestimate the power of staff knowledge.

Last year, Trend Micro discovered a phishing campaign that makes use of compromised email accounts to reply to email threads. This makes the email look legitimate, however, the email chain contained malware, a banking trojan as well as spyware, which victims downloaded without being the wiser.

Tightening your security is always a good idea. There are many solutions out there to ensure your network is protected. However, it is also important to remember that when it comes to phishing, no one is immune. Hackers are targeting CEOs and their support staff as well as the accounts manager. As much as we do our part to make sure cybercriminals don’t get into your network, the criminals are working just as hard to find a way in.