Spear Phishers Aiming At SMBsPilfered email addresses and personal information from Epsilon and Sony breaches will make attacks on SMBs even more likely.
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Slideshow: 10 Massive Security Breaches
As news of new breaches associated with targeted phishing attacks stream the wires, and hackers continue to refine their method of homing in on highly specific victims, it is becoming clear that this season is shaping up to be the summer of spear phishing. The breaches at RSA, Epsilon, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) all showed signs that spear phishing was used as the point of origin for more sophisticated attacks. And while some of the splashier stories have featured enterprises foiled by spear phishing, the threat is very real for small businesses as well.
Security researchers from Symantec this month reported that spear phishing is currently at a two-year high, with the majority of attack schemes targeting individuals--particularly high-value victims, such as small businesses, that might have larger bank accounts than consumers, but fewer security tools and less awareness than large organizations.
“Spear phishing is difficult to defend against because it primarily targets users, not PCs, and the information that attackers can gather from social networking sites makes the phishing emails look very convincing," says David Beesley, managing director of security consultancy Network Defence. "As we’ve seen, it makes these attacks effective against any size of organization."
According to Francis de Souza, group president of enterprise products and services for Symantec, these attacks "thrive on familiarity," with attackers using the abundance of personal information available online through social networks and through a plethora of black market information available from past data breaches involving email addresses to craft very personalized phishing messages.
"All of this information, where someone works, their title, where they went to school: It is all available on the Web, so you can design a spear-phishing email very easily, and it can absolutely fool pretty much anybody," says Brent Remai, vice president of marketing for FireEye. "They click on it, and guess what? They're infected, and then it propagates itself to all the other devices in the organization."
And with millions more addresses and personal details hitting the street in the wake of the Epsilon and Sony breaches, the deluge is bound to get worse.
"[With Sony], it's 100 million users at significant risk of spear phishing and identity theft, and that risk is perpetual. It is not going to go away," says Jon Heimerl, director of strategic security for Solutionary. "Once that information is out, it is out: names, addresses, email addresses, birthdates, user names, and challenge questions. All of it can be used."
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