Phishing attacks are not something that has come up recently. Such attacks have been around since the mid 90s, however, overtime, they have become more sophisticated.

To make things worse, did you know that 32% of confirmed data breaches involved phishing? (Verizon 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report) And 57% of the organizations report having experienced mobile phishing attacks! (Wandera’s 2020 Mobile Threat Landscape Report).

Before moving on to the latest trends in phishing, let us define it.

What is Phishing?

Phishing is one of the easiest and most common types of cyber attacks used by criminals and among the easiest to fall for as well. It is often used to steal user data such as login credentials, credit card numbers, and other personal information. The attacker, masquerading as a trusted entity, tricks a person into clicking on a link, opening a mail, or a WhatsApp message. Some links might be shortened which causes a challenge to know their legitimacy.

When the recipient clicks on the link, it may cause malware installation, hold your system hostage (ransomware attack), or reveal sensitive information caused by a vulnerability in the system.

Now that you know what phishing is, let us learn more about the latest phishing trends and ways to protect ourselves from them.

Spear Phishing

  • What is Spear Phishing?

Not all phishing attacks are based on ‘spray and pray’/random techniques where a long list of unknown recipients are targeted. Some cyber criminals rely on a more targeted and personal touch to attack their victims. In spear phishing, the attacker sends emails with the victim’s name, position, number, or other personal information.

The victim is tricked into clicking the URL or downloading the attachment and handing over their data. With the amount of personalization in crafting these attacks, it is no surprise that spear phishing is commonplace on various social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter.

  • How to avoid it?

To guard against spear phishing, organizations must conduct security awareness sessions and discourage their employees from putting sensitive or corporate information on social media.

In addition to that, companies must also invest in solutions that analyze inbound emails for certain known malicious links and email attachments. This measure is capable of picking up on indicators for both known malware as well as zero-day threats.

Also, organizations can invest in phishing simulation solutions to train employees on the best practices and show them first-hand what might happen when a phishing attack is performed.


  • What is Whaling?

A whaling attack, also known as whaling phishing, targets high-profile employees, such as the CEO or CFO of a company to get sensitive information. The attacker manipulates the victim into authorizing high-value wire transfers to the cyber criminal, thus conducting the attack.

Do you know why it is called whaling? It is termed coined due to the size of the attacks, and the whales are thought to be picked from a company as per their position or authority.

  • How to avoid it?

To avoid whaling attacks, check cautiously for suspicious email addresses and names. Review all the URLs you get in your inbox and see if anything is suspicious before clicking! It will greatly reduce your chances of being targeted by attackers. Also, try to prioritize raising cybersecurity awareness level in your organization.

Also, following the current procedures for all financial transfers done within your organization. You must also check other important transactions, for instance, forwarding sensitive information to other people outside your organization.

Smishing and WhatsApp Phishing

  • What is Smishing and WhatsApp Phishing?

Smishing (SMS Phishing) and WhatsApp Phishing is a cyber-attack that can harm you to great extents. Smishing uses a misleading text message to trick victims into falling into the trap. The attacker makes you believe that a trusted person or organization sends the message and then convinces you to take action that gives the attacker the desired information (for instance, the bank account login credentials).

We can say that it is a text-message based version of the email-based phishing scams. But they are trickier because people are less cautious for suspicious messages on their smartphones.

  • How to avoid it?

To avoid Smishing and WhatsApp Phishing, avoid clicking on any links you receive from unknown numbers. Do not reply to text messages asking about your finances. If you get an SMS saying, ” Dear user, congratulations, you have won….”, don’t fall into the trap. Also, check if the SMS is sent at an unusual time and check who sent it as the attacker might disguise themselves as your bank to trick you into performing certain tasks and providing them with your personal or sensitive information.

In Conclusion

There are many different types of Phishing that cyber criminals perform to reach your private information, the most effective method for organizations and individuals to avoid falling victims to these scams is to raise their awareness about these types of attacks on a regular basis as attackers get more advanced with their methods as time goes by,

Think before you click!

Share this article: