Phishing—the practice of using fake emails and other schemes to obtain sensitive information or data, such as usernames, passwords, or credit card details—continues to be one of the most prevalent security threats today. This blog covers some of the top phishing scams, as well as some new trends, that banks and credit unions should know about, so they can better protect themselves.
One of the most widespread and potentially devastating types of phishing scams is “impersonation phishing,” according to the Q1 2021 Financial Crime Report by Feedzai, a data science company that prevents, detects, and remediates fraud risk for financial institutions. With this tactic, cybercriminals target people by a phone, text, or email claiming to be from a financial institution or government agency. The objective: Convince the potential victim to make some kind of payment, which will enable the culprit to access the person’s credit card or financial account. Or the impersonator might send a “Suspicious Account Activity”’ email from a financial institution, asking the targeted individual to log into their online account and verify a transaction. Then when the person logs in using the button or link provided in the email, the attack ensues.
Spear phishing is another common con that financial institutions should have on their radar. Almost two-thirds of all known groups carrying out targeted cyber attacks use spear-phishing emails, according to Symantec’s 2019 Internet Security Threat Report. Many of these attacks originate from hijacked business email accounts, and as a result, can be quite effective. The perpetrator normally already knows some information about the recipient, so the fake emails appear to be legitimate.
Clone phishing, a variation of spear phishing, involves the attacker recreating or cloning a legitimate and previously opened email with a new attachment or link included. The duplicated email is then sent with an infected attachment that can be used to control or steal information once clicked or downloaded.
Top Emerging Trends
A new approach that banks and credit unions should know about is “vishing” (or voice phishing). Cybercriminals are now using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) platforms to launch vishing attacks against employees worldwide, the FBI warns. In these cases, vishers try to get users of VoIP platforms to pick up the phone and authenticate themselves on a phishing website designed to steal their credentials. Vishing scams have now evolved to the point where perpetrators are successfully faking caller IDs and pretending to be someone else.
We are also seeing phishing scammers modifying their basic tactics. Many are now sending emails that simply ask for “urgent attention” rather than payment transfers, which suggests they are altering their approach to bypass standard fraud-prevention methods. They’re also using strategies like the “Zombie Phish” which involves taking over an email account and responding to an old email conversation with a new phishing link. Additionally, phishers have started using shortened URLs, which have an easier time getting past filters and vigilant employees.
As an evasive strategy, attackers link potential victims to the websites of trusted cloud filesharing services like SharePoint and OneDrive. Consider this: More than 5,200 SharePoint phishing emails were reported in a 12-month period, along with almost 2,000 attacks involving OneDrive, according to Cofense Intelligence’s Q3 2020 Phishing Review. More advanced phishing campaigns are also employing unusual attachment types to elude the controls imposed by secure email gateways. For example, .iso files are being renamed to .img files to sneak malware through a gateway.
Ultimately, the best defense against phishing is human intelligence, so training employees to detect this type of fraud is essential. Financial institutions can also take advantage of third-party information security services to strengthen their security posture against phishing attacks. Safe Systems, a national provider of fully compliant IT and security services, is enabling institutions to win the cyber battle against phishing through a full spectrum of solutions specifically designed to help community banks and credit unions enhance their security posture.