Commonly Used Phishing and Spear Phishing Tactics


Techniques for seizing personal information on users are plenty. To further complicate digital security, strategies employed by cybercriminals are more advanced than ever. It is because technology is uninhibitedly progressing. When it comes to stealing personal information, such as passwords and credit card information, cybercriminals leverage phishing tactics. In a 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report, Verizon Enterprise found that phishing was the second-highest threatening variety in security incidents. At the same time, it was the widest intimidating variety in data breaches. But before we discuss currently used phishing and spear phishing tactics, it is essential to understand the difference between phishing and spear phishing.


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The Primary Difference Between Phishing and Spear Phishing

You can consider any attempt to lure victims into sharing sensitive information such as data, login credentials, and credit card details as phishing. Phishing is essentially a broader term to refer to steal personal information from someone. Firstly, an attacker garbs oneself in a trustworthy entity. Subsequently, he or she contacts a target with the help of email, phone call, SMS, or social media to fetch desired information. Phishing attacks are not customized and are sent to masses of individuals simultaneously.

On the other hand, spear phishing refers to conducting targeted attacks against a specific victim. For this purpose, an attacker distinctively modifies the messages to address the given victim. The attacker pretends to come from an entity acquainted with the victim and containing personal information. Essentially, the purpose behind a spear phishing attack is to fetch as much information as possible. While comparing phishing and spear phishing, the latter requires more time and thought. Due to the personalized level of contacts, it is more complicated to recognize spear phishing attacks than recognize phishing attacks.

Phishing Tactics

The straightforward and commonly deployed tactic by cybercriminals is sending a malicious email to a plethora of people. The underlying aim remains to attract at least a few people to take the desired action. Occasionally, it is to lure the recipient into downloading malware or logging into a website. Other than the mentioned tactic, we discuss some different yet commonly deployed tactics.


Another form of phishing is smishing, in which someone attempts to trick a victim into giving personal information through a text message. Some of the well-known techniques used for smishing are prompting the download of a malicious application, linking to information-stealing forms, and commanding the user to contact technical support. An attacker sends a text message with a link and persuades a recipient somehow to click it. Smishing (SMS phishing) is scary since people usually trust a text message rather than email.


Malvertising is a term for malicious advertising. Thus, any advertisement containing active scripts and the purpose of incorporating unwanted content into your computer is malvertising. The most common method in malvertising is the presence of exploits in Flash and Adobe PDF.


Fraudulently fetching personal information, such as bank account details, from someone through a telephonic call is commonly known as vishing. As indicated by Comparitech, an attacker executes a vishing operation by initiating a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) server to emulate different entities. Often, vishing (voice phishing) gets done with a fake caller ID. Apart from this, the mumble strategy and technical jargon are some of the techniques included in vishing. Notwithstanding, the idea remains to deceive victims into giving personal information.

Spear Phishing Tactics

Spear phishing leverages a combination of dynamic URLs, email spoofing, and drive-by downloads to escape conventional defenses. All the while, advanced spear phishing attacks exploit zero-day vulnerabilities in desktop apps and browsers to compromise systems. After discussing the phishing tactics, here we talk about some of the spear phishing tactics.

Sheltering Malicious Documents on Cloud Services

According to CSO Online, it is a technique that cyber-attackers heavily employ nowadays. They incorporate malicious documents in advance on cloud services, such as Google Drive and Dropbox, in a sophisticated manner. As a result, the IT department is unlikely to block these services. It means that the email filters of an organization will not flag the weaponized docs.

Business Email Compromise

Business email compromise refers to a situation in which a cyber-attacker paves a way to access an email from a senior executive. It may include the chief financial officer (CFO) or chief executive officer (CEO). The attacker then tries to exploit it to steal logging credentials or critical documents from other employees. He does that to initiate a fake wire transfer or acquire money through bogus invoices. The employee range can stretch from junior staff to senior staff.

Exploring Social-Media

Employees who use social media to put personal information are usually a target of spear phishing attackers. Cyber-attackers view individual profiles by scanning social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. They get a hand at the email address of the targeted individual. By the way, it does not stop here. Digital attackers also get hold of other critical information, such as geographic location and friends list. With such information in possession of an attacker, he can send a compelling yet fraudulent message to its targeted victim. The attacker would do it by disguising himself in a familiar entity or even a notable brand’s customer service.


Defending an entire staff of an organization from phishing and spear phishing attacks requires full-fledged training. However, complying with basic guidelines can at least safeguard an organization from various easy-to-deploy tactics. It includes using two-factor authentication (2FA), leveraging password management policies, frequently updating the software, and refraining from clicking the links from unknown sources. Meanwhile, to help you learn more about Cyber Resiliency Training, we are available 24/7 at your fingertips to equip your employees with all the necessary resources.




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