In this post, we’ll discuss phishing (not fishing) and spear phishing as means of attacking through your emails.
I have chosen to include this category because some scams are delivered by email. They are similar to phishing emails in that they want something. Many times it is to start a very person correspondence or a series of calls. Picture a room full of people with computers and they just sent out a scam. Within MINUTES, someone shouts ‘Got a live one’ and everyone snickers before they begin talking to the person in a very sincere voice.
Think this doesn’t work? Consider that Nigerian scams, see below, started 20 years ago. Note the date at the top, when I received it. IF IT DID NOT WORK, THEY WOULD STOP DOING IT.
This is a lazy one because they just want you to email your bank credentials to them. Many want you to call or write and then they gradually hook you. All have a time frame when the wonderful offer will expire if you don’t act.
See the official looking note at the bottom that the email has been scanned by Avast antivirus software. Ha ha! Remember, if something is too good to be true, it probably is.
These are sent to all the emails the bad guys can get from buying lists or scraping emails off the web. Bad Actor: “We hope the potential victim does business with the place of business on the email. If not, there are lots of other suckers prospective victims just waiting for us.”
I get lots of these, often several times a day. I present you with some samples herein, minus of course the bad links. I have made images so the links are not active in this post. Remember these were NOT sent by the company they appear to be from.
The first one is from Linked In. Now if the person that gets this is a member of linked in they will be interested. Note the ‘IMPORTANT MESSAGE’. Victim: “Dang! My profile has a situation, I better hurry and click so I won’t miss any of those messages I get from Linked In”.
The mail address at the bottom is a nice touch, don’t you think?
Coming up is one from Bank of America. It’s pretty and has their logo and colors and looks very real. It even has a ‘Security Checkpoint’ on it, whatever that is, so I will believe it is real. Victim: “Oh man, there’s a multiple IP conflict on my account (whatever that is) and they are going to close it. I better act fast. Whew!”
Glad to know BOA is an Equal Housing Lender but it makes it look more real.
Oopsie, this is America and the date used in the Security Checkpoint is 18/02 NOT 02/18 as in America. Still not a bad job. They are hoping, that when it’s mixed in the 200 other business or personal emails you receive every day you will not think and TAKE ACTION.
Ok, last one. This one appears to be from the Chase Bank. This time I have ‘suspicious activity’ on my account. Victim: “Oh no my account is suspended! How did… oh they tell me how it got suspended and all I have to do is click on this button to fix it. How thoughtful.”
The button will take the victim to a website page that looks like a Chase page, complete with logo and asks for them to verify their account by entering their login and password.
This one is a member of FDIC so it MUST be ok. Bad Actor: “By the time they figure out I got their password, I will have the real bank transfer funds from their accounts to my account in another bank that will only exist temporarily until I can cash out of it, WITH THEIR MONEY.” This works because they take you to a similar website like http://www.chasebank.com while the REAL bank is at http://www.chase.com.
1) No legitimate company every asks you to click a link and enter your credentials in an email.
2) Pick up the phone and call and verify. Don’t use ANY number on the suspicious email.
3) Run the cursor over the link and carefully check the lower left of the browser to see if the URL is valid. Watch for URL’s similar to the real one.
4) Avoid opening attachments until you know the source of the email.
5) Use a different email than your regular email to sign up for things on the Internet.
6) Hire an outside firm to train and test your employees phishing campaign that records who responds to it.
Spear phishing is simply targeted phishing. Whereas phishing is more general, for example, all the Bank of America customers, spear phishing often targets some specific person or organization. For example, you receive an email with your company’s email and name on it – complete with company logo, i.e. looking just like it came from someone in your organization, possibly your boss. And who wouldn’t reset their boss’s password and give them another or loan them their login if the boss were in a hurry? Victim: “Darn, the boss has forgotten his password again. That’s three times this month!” Real Victim – The Boss: “You gave who my password?
Or it could be from a friend or loved one. Spear Phishers attempt to make you drop your guard just a little bit. They may use information you post on Facebook or elsewhere to figure out what to put in the email. It also could reference a recent purchase you made, for example iTunes, if your Facebook post shows you with an iPhone. Or how about a photo you posted two years ago with you and another person you tagged. They, the bad actor, write you and include the photo with some comment like, ‘those were some good times huh?’ They are trying to associate themselves with you to get you to trust them.
Increasingly, the board of directors is the target.22
1) Use a different internal email signature than you use outside the company.
2) Add something extra to any emails that contain a link.
3) Run the cursor over the link and carefully check the lower left of the browser to see if the URL is valid.
4) A company policy to NEVER ask for credentials through an email.
5) Have your friends use your middle initial when they address you or a nickname.
6) Call the person to verify it’s from them before clicking on a link or opening an attachment.
Spear Phishing for a Fund Transfer Scam
There is a variation of spear phishing that goes like this. Suppose you are the person in charge of funds, say the CFO. While your CEO is on a trip, you get an email from her that may even sound like her directing you to wire some funds to an account as she is about to go to a meeting and she needs it sent now. What do you do?
If you think this is small stuff, think again. The FBI1 reports that between 2013 and mid 2016 that $2 billion was lost to this scheme worldwide with 12,000 reported company victims. This was just updated to $3.1 billion with over 22,000 victims.24
1) Company policy that all fund transfers over $1000 must be verified by phone call with the requesting individual.
2) Company policy that prevents the CEO from authorizing fund transfers while on a trip.
3) Create a place to request fund transfers after login to the network and only authorize certain individuals to do this.