Threat Intelligence

9/28/2018
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Kelly Sheridan
Kelly Sheridan
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7 Most Prevalent Phishing Subject Lines

The most popular subject lines crafted to trick targets into opening malicious messages, gleaned from thousands of phishing emails.
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(Image: Amy Walters - stock.adobe.com)

(Image: Amy Walters stock.adobe.com)

Chances are good there's a phishing scam lurking amid your emails right now. If there isn't, then perhaps there will be tomorrow, or the next day. The question is, will you fall for it?

Phishing emails are getting tougher to block because attackers are crafting their bait to be more convincing to targets, researchers report. And employees are quick to open potentially malicious emails, even when they know they should be on alert, says Webroot CISO Gary Hayslip.

"I think it's to the point where it's getting commonplace," he says. "Users are used to seeing phishing emails now. They suck at not responding to them or clicking on them … which is frightening, because [attackers] prey on human nature."

People are curious and they want to help, he continues, and it's these two qualities that make them susceptible to phishing attacks. When they do fall for scams, most employees are quick to realize it. "I'm really busy," "I missed that," "I should've caught that email," are all commonly heard phrases from victims who have opened malicious emails and realized they did wrong.

"No matter how much technology you put in place to block them, stuff always gets through," Hayslip adds.

Webroot recently scanned thousands of phishing emails from the past 18 months to learn more about the trends around common subject lines designed to trick targets. Hayslip presented the findings to about 100 fellow CISOs around the country and learned "almost everybody's seeing the same thing," he says. Financially related messages and notions of urgency are commonly seen in phishing emails, albeit under different subject lines.

John "Lex" Robinson, cybersecurity strategist at Cofense (formerly PhishMe) echoes Hayslip's sentiments and says attackers are getting better and better at understanding the context of the emails they're sending and who they're targeting.

"If you think about the way we communicate today versus 15, 20, or 30 years ago, it's a lot less formal," he says. Phishing doesn't need to be formal; it needs to align with business jargon.

Here's a look at the most commonly used phishing subject lines, the messages they include, and what they reveal about their attackers' goals and tactics.

 

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Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio

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hixonmarie412
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hixonmarie412,
User Rank: Author
10/17/2018 | 9:01:52 AM
Thank you for these!
Great read and I appreciate the article. I will definitely utilize these when testing our phisihing detection methods!
txreal
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txreal,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/11/2018 | 12:31:40 PM
Please make slideshow available view in one page
Is there a way to have this feature (make slideshow available view in one page) to minimize down scroll? 

Thanks.

David
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
9/29/2018 | 11:37:19 PM
Implied calls to action
The common thread in all of these and most others: they suggest a line of action to be taken beyond merely opening the email (handling a financial matter, picking up a package, addressing a bureaucratic snafu, etc.).

Another common one are emails that purport to be about HR issues.

And one that's picked up a lot of steam lately? The fake LinkedIn "[N] people searched for you".
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