Please fill in the form below to subscribe to our blog

Phishing Simulations Can Train Employees to Resist These 4 Phishing-Based Cyberattacks

June 13, 2024

Phishing messages carry many of today’s most devastating cyberthreats, which include ransomware, business email compromise and account takeover. Phishing attempts can be difficult for employees to spot, especially since today’s more sophisticated phishing attacks leverage AI technologies like ChatGPT. However, there is hope for IT professionals striving to protect their organizations’ systems and data from costly cyber trouble. Cybersecurity awareness training that includes phishing simulation is an extremely effective way to educate employees about phishing. Let’s take a look at four of the most dangerous types of phishing attacks that can be mitigated with security awareness training.

dark web threats represented by a hacker in a hoodie shrouded in shadows with faint binary code

Get Vonahi’s exclusive report on the top findings of thousands of penetration tests. GET THE REPORT>>

Although ransomware attacks are widely regarded as the worst form of cyberattacks, business email compromise (BEC) attacks aren’t far behind, causing maximum damage to organizations across sectors. These attacks have proliferated significantly in recent times, resulting in severe financial and reputational damages. The biggest reason for the proliferation of these attacks is because BEC attacks require less effort and are largely automated, with a lower risk of getting caught and a much higher chance of payouts.

These attacks begin with cybercriminals hacking or spoofing email accounts from a trusted business to fraudulently acquire money, gift cards or sensitive data and financial details. There are many variations of this scam, but these are the most common:

  • Cybercriminals attempt to impersonate an executive or a trusted figure within the victim organization, preying on the employees’ emotions to coerce them into complying with the request.
  • Bad actors claim to be a supplier or service provider for the target business and claim that they are owed payment for an outstanding invoice.
  • Cybercriminals present themselves as someone from within the victim organization, like an employee at another branch of the company, and request money or payment of a fake bill.

If a business suffers a BEC attack, its impact can be devastating to its present and future revenue while also damaging its brand and business relationships. Even huge corporations like Google, Facebook and Toyota have experienced BEC attacks, resulting in millions of dollars in losses. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) says that BEC is 64X worse than ransomware for businesses.

BEC attacks rely mainly on social engineering techniques, making antivirus, spam filters and email blacklisting ineffective against it. However, organizations could use AI to sniff out these threats since AI considers the content of a message to determine whether the message is a threat or not. A high level of awareness bolstered by employee education and robust internal prevention techniques, especially for privileged staff, can help businesses put a lid on this threat.

What challenges will IT pros face in the second half of 2024? Find out in the Mid-Year Cyber Risk Report. GET IT>>

In an account takeover attack, cybercriminals steal a user’s account credentials to facilitate other cybercrimes. Using social engineering tricks in phishing emails, hackers compel users to provide their credentials and then take ownership of their accounts by barring the original user from accessing their account. They do this using a variety of techniques, including:

Credential stuffing: Attackers use automated tools to enter large volumes of stolen username and password pairs across various websites, exploiting the fact that many users reuse passwords across multiple services.

Keylogging: Malware installed on the victim’s device records every keystroke, including passwords and other sensitive information, which is then sent to the attacker.

Session hijacking: The attacker exploits a valid computer session to gain unauthorized access to information or services in a computer system by stealing the session token.

SIM swapping: The attacker convinces a mobile carrier to switch the victim’s phone number to a SIM card owned by the attacker, which can then be used to reset passwords and bypass two-factor authentication.

Man-in-the-Middle attacks: This involves intercepting and possibly altering the communication between two parties who believe they are directly communicating with each other. These attacks are carried out to capture login credentials or manipulate transaction details.

Brute-force attacks: The attacker uses trial and error to guess login info or encryption keys or to find a hidden web page. This method relies on the attacker’s persistence and the use of software to try many combinations quickly.

Social engineering: This broader category includes techniques beyond phishing, where the attacker uses psychological manipulation to trick someone into giving access to their account or personal information.

Malware and spyware: These are specific types of malicious software designed to infiltrate a user’s device unnoticed, gathering information that leads to account takeovers.

While financial institutions and e-commerce websites experience a higher incidence of account takeover fraud than other industries, no business is immune to this danger. For instance, hackers may take over an existing e-commerce account and use it to purchase high-value goods, paying with the victim’s stored payment credentials while changing the shipping address to their own.

Learn about the challenges that MSPs face in 2024 in Datto’s State of the MSP 2024 Report. GET YOUR COPY>>

Spear phishing is a highly targeted, well-researched email attack that can target anyone within a company. An estimated 65% of cybercrime groups carry out targeted cyberattacks using spear phishing emails. While spear phishing attempts typically target specific people within a company, they can also target employees in general. Cybercriminals who use this technique take great care to ensure that their malicious messages are detailed and highly believable.

A spear phishing attack starts with a phishing email from a seemingly trustworthy source. However, that email can lead the recipient down several dangerous roads. Bad actors may aim to persuade the recipient into carrying out actions like:

  • Handing over their credentials
  • Providing access to sensitive systems or data
  • Transferring money
  • Sharing privileged information
  • Clicking a malicious link
  • Downloading a malware-laden document

Due to the high payout potential of spear phishing attacks, threat actors spend considerable time researching their target. They use clever tactics, individually designed approaches and social engineering techniques to gain the victims’ attention and then compel them to click on the phishing links.

For example, the FBI released a warning about a spear phishing scam doing the rounds in which bad actors sent spear phishing messages designed to look like they came from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The subject of the email was “Search for Missing Children,” with an attached zip file titled “resources” that actually contained three malicious files.

What should you be looking for in an EDR solution? This checklist helps you make a smart choice! GET IT>>

Whaling is a primarily email-based cyberattack in which cybercriminals attempt to trap a “big fish,” like someone within the C-suite of a company, for example. Almost 60% of organizations say an executive has been the target of whaling attacks, and in about half of those attacks, the targeted executives fell for the bait. To pull this attack off, bad actors spend considerable time researching and profiling a high-value target for a sizeable reward potential. Recently, whaling emails have become highly sophisticated with the adoption of fluent business terminology, industry knowledge, personal references, and spoofed email addresses. Even cautious eyes can fail to identify a whaling email.

A whaling phishing attack often targets high-level executives within an organization, such as CEOs or CFOs, by crafting highly personalized and convincing emails that appear to come from trusted sources. The IBM X-force Threat Intelligence index 2024 found a 71% increase in cyber attacks leveraging stolen identities in 2023 compared to 2022For example, an attacker might send an email to a company’s CFO, posing as the CEO, with an urgent request for a financial transfer. The email could include the CEO’s real name, position, and even details about recent company activities, making it appear legitimate. It might say, “Hi [CFO’s Name], we need to transfer $250,000 to our new supplier for the upcoming project. Please process this urgently and send me a confirmation once done. Regards, [CEO’s Name].” The email may also contain spoofed email addresses or domains to enhance its authenticity. If the CFO complies without verifying the request through other means, the funds could be transferred to the attacker’s account, resulting in significant financial loss for the company.

Affordable, automated penetration testing is a game-changer. Learn about it in our buyer’s guide! GET GUIDE>>

Kaseya’s Security Suite has the tools that MSPs and IT professionals need to mitigate cyber-risk effectively and affordably. It features automated and AI-driven features that make IT professionals’ lives easier.  

BullPhish ID – This effective, automated security awareness training and phishing simulation solution provides critical training that improves compliance, prevents employee mistakes and reduces a company’s risk of being hit by a cyberattack.     

Dark Web ID – Our award-winning dark web monitoring solution is the channel leader for a good reason. It provides the greatest amount of protection around, with 24/7/365 human- and machine-powered monitoring of business and personal credentials, including domains, IP addresses and email addresses.    

Graphus – Graphus is a cutting-edge, automated email security solution that puts three layers of AI-powered protection between employees and phishing messages. It works equally well as a standalone email security solution or supercharges your Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace email security.      

RocketCyber Managed SOC – Our managed cybersecurity detection and response solution is backed by a world-class security operations center that detects malicious and suspicious activity across three critical attack vectors: endpoint, network and cloud. 

Datto EDR – Detect and respond to advanced threats with built-in continuous endpoint monitoring and behavioral analysis to deliver comprehensive endpoint defense (something that many cyber insurance companies require).      

Vonahi Penetration Testing – How sturdy are your cyber defenses? Do you have dangerous vulnerabilities? Find out with vPenTest, a SaaS platform that makes getting the best network penetration test easy and affordable for internal IT teams.   

Learn more about our security products, or better yet, take the next step and book a demo today!