Spear Phishing: The Next Evolution Of Phishing

Spear Phishing

Phishing, otherwise known as email scams is a term you may have come across before but how much do you know about spear phishing? This is a more effective way to trick people into clicking links on emails, but this article will cover this and how to avoid falling for phishing scams yourself.

What Is Phishing

Phishing involves hackers sending out blanket emails to randomised individuals including links that will download malware on the devices of people who click them. Hackers often fashion these emails to look as legitimate as possible, pretending to be a representative of authority. Such as from a utility provider or the local council, the email may make a false claim such as the email recipient has underpaid on a previous bill. This is likely to panic people into clicking the link because they want to find out more and clear their name, but all that happens when they click the link is that their computer is infected by malware. To avoid being a victim of a cyber attack you should avoid clicking links in emails and instead contact the company or entity directly using an email address you find on their website, allowing you to enquire about the email you have received knowing that you are not speaking to the scammer.

Spear Phishing

Spear phishing is a more targeted variant of phishing, as the hacker has carefully chosen an individual or company to target; this requires extensive research to be carried out on the hacker’s part to gleam any information that they can use to make their phishing attacks seem more legitimate. Hackers then use this information to craft a convincing online persona that would be attractive to the targeted individual or company. Many spear phishing attacks may not offer any hits of danger at first and instead aim to build their victim’s trust; once the hacker feels they have their victim’s trust they then add a link within their email, if the victim clicks the link the hacker has won and can download malware onto the victim’s computer.

Senior Level Leadership Of Companies Are Particularly Vulnerable To Spear Phishing Attacks

Senior-level figures within organisations are more likely to have a larger amount of information about themselves accessible to anyone on the internet, this information can easily be used by hackers conducting spear phishing attacks. Hackers may have access to years worth of news articles detailing people or companies that the targeted individual or organisation has come into contact with in the past. Hackers can then use this information to research those companies and pretend to be them when contacting the victim. Also, some senior-level leadership figures may bypass any cyber security training that is taught within their organisation because they may be too busy to attend such training.

How To Spot Spear Phishing Attempts

In recent years spear phishing has become a grave concern to businesses and individuals around the world as hackers can take an analytical approach allowing them to be more successful when hitting their desired targets. Here is how to spot spear phishing attacks:

  • Spelling Or Grammer Mistakes: If an individual or company that you have come into contact with in the past has changed emails and started making spelling mistakes within their communication with you then it is time to be cautious. You should contact the individual on a method of communication that you know for a fact that it is them and ask about the email that you have received, it may be that they did actually send you the email and just made a few mistakes, but it could also be that it was a hacker that you have just managed to avoid!
  • Unusual Sense Of Emergency: It is a method of hackers to panic their victims into acting as soon as possible, this is because the more urgent something feels the less time people have to think and rationalise a reason why they should not click the link in the email.
  • Incorrect Email Addresses: If you are used to communicating with a person or company on a particular email address and this suddenly changes it is wise to double-check with the email address you are used to communicating with to check if the other email address is associated with them or not. Hackers can pretend to be somebody that you know such as your boss, coworker or even your family; but they will need to use a different email address to do this.
  • Asks For Sensitive Infomation: If you receive an email from anybody asking for sensitive information it is important to ask yourself why this individual would need this information in the first place. If you cannot think of a good answer or you have been asked this information out of the blue it is worth communicating with the person through a communication channel that you know for sure that it is them or speaking to them in person. Allowing you to make sure that it is them asking for the information. If you have given away sensitive information associated with any investments you have then it is worth contacting investment fraud attorneys and your bank who will be able to maximise the chances of you getting your money back.
  • Includes Unsolicited Email Attachments: If you receive an email containing random attachments that have nothing to do with the written content in the email then there is a chance that are being targeted by a phishing email.

How To Improve The Cyber Security Of Your Organisation

  • Be Careful When Clicking Links In Emails: Ideally, you should avoid clicking links in emails altogether. But if you find yourself needing to you should ensure that you follow the advice that is directly above this section to help you spot spear phishing emails.
  • Create Standardised Cyber Security Policies And Procedures: Creating a cyber security document that is easily available to all employees and contains information that helps people improve their overall cybersecurity is a good idea; as this helps your business have a more standardised approach to cyber security.
  • Create Reporting Mechanisms: Reporting mechanisms allow employees to quickly sound the alert if they think that they have done something that may compromise organisational cybersecurity. This is because the sooner the organisation can react to a cyber threat the better off they will be.


Spear phishing is a concern for businesses and individuals everywhere, but there are still ways to avoid being caught out yourself!

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