Spear Phishing, a targeted form of email phishing, is a constantly evolving and sophisticated attack technique designed to fool employees and put you at risk for data loss, financial fraud, or embarrassing exposure. While phishing generally involves a broad level attack sent to multiple people with no clear point of origin, spear phishing is an email-spoofing attack that targets a specific organization or individual, seeking unauthorized access to sensitive information. This technique is highly targeted and rapidly becoming the most significant security threat facing organizations today. It’s important that you know how to protect against spear phishing and other potentially devastating attacks that can slip through your security gateways.
The Purpose of This Guide
We built this buyer’s guide to help direct you towards a complete email security solution. We know it can be difficult to fully understand the ins and outs of safeguarding your organization against spear phishing—this guide aims to educate you on the features you should look for when developing a security infrastructure capable of defending against targeted phishing attacks.
Understanding Spear Phishing
Spear phishing emails are a highly personalized form of phishing. While phishing is designed around high volume, generic spamming, spear phishing emails focus on targeting specific individuals or groups within an organization. Usually those targeted are high-level employees, or people in charge of sensitive data such as financial information.
Because of their targeted nature, they are not as common as phishing, and typically they do not contain malicious attachments or links. It is important to keep in mind that despite being less prolific, they have the potential to cause tremendous harm to your business. On average, the cost of a successful phishing campaign against a mid-sized company is around $1.6 million dollars.
Many email solutions, such as spam firewalls, have a difficult time detecting and neutralizing spear phishing as they mimic the prose and language of common inter-employee communication. In order to remain protected, it is important to have a multi-layered spear phishing solution that has the means to identify and prevent attacks across all possible threat vectors. It is not enough anymore to assume that standard inbound/ outbound email filtering will catch all spear phishing attacks.
Choosing the Right Spear Phishing Solution
Spear phishing can be extremely lucrative for attackers since they actively trick end users into sending sensitive data or company funds. While these types of attacks can be difficult to stop, modern solutions have risen to help meet this challenge head-on. To ensure the protection of your infrastructure and data, you need a number of solutions, all designed to mitigate each weak point in your organization's email infrastructure.
Predictive Protection & Filtering
The sophistication of a spear phishing attack requires a modular defense capable of stopping emails before they hit an inbox. Advanced inbound filtering systems can detect and sanitize every email before it is delivered to a mail server, protecting against inbound malware, spam, and phishing attacks. High-level inbound filtering cant stop all spear phishing attacks single handedly, but it can safeguard against lower quality campaigns.
Account Takeover Detection
A new cyber attack technique that has become more popular involves breaking into corporate email accounts (by stealing credentials) and using that address as a hub for further internal or external attacks. This attack, known as account takeover, is almost impossible for a traditional email security gateway to discover.
Part of your spear phishing defense should automatically analyzing message content from trusted accounts for strange behavior like asking for passwords or emailing everyone in the company address book. An account takeover detection system should be able to recognize these techniques, automatically alert IT administrators, and quarantine the relevant messages before they reach the inbox of their intended victims.
Domain Fraud Protection
Make sure your email protection system has a robust DMARC authentication solution. One main technique used by cybercriminals running a spear phishing campaign is domain spoofing. Through reporting, DMARC can automate authenticity verification, and alert administrators to false email domains immediately. DMARC works by automatically verifying the authenticity of registered domains and either blocking or allowing messages based on the result.
Employee Education & Training
Over 40% of people can't identify a phishing email. With employees being the main target of spear phishing attacks, it's important that you train and educate them on how to avoid succumbing to the pressures of a well-written phishing attack. Effective employee education is measured by the quality of their training resources. You should make sure your spear phishing education system has high quality use cases, full of variety and up to date with the latest techniques. Your employees should know how to identify fake landing pages, URL and address spoofing.
In addition, it is important to train employees to not only spot spear phishing attacks from their office computer, but also their phone or tablet. Furthermore, you need to know that your financial team in one city is trained just as well as the IT department in another city. Both these problems can be solved by a central management hub that lets you deploy spear phishing and cyberattack training materials to anyone in the company, on any device.
With more than 120 million users, Office 365 is a core product for organizations today. While Microsoft's ability to detect phishing attacks has improved in recent years, the sophisticated techniques of a spear phishing attack require a more advanced approach. This is why an effective spear phishing protection plan should integrate directly with Microsoft and its products.
The Importance of Protecting against Spear Phishing
A comprehensive email security and management strategy are critical to keeping your users, networks, and data safe from targeted spear-phishing attacks. The increase in spear phishing attacks—business email compromise attacks accounted for $667 million in cybercrime damages in 2017 alone—means your organization's email communications needs to be protected with advanced filtering, authentication, and employee education and training.
Barracuda Products for Spear Phishing
Barracuda PhishLine guards against every facet of social-engineering threats with continuous simulation and training for employees. It trains employees to understand the latest attack techniques, recognize subtle clues, and help stop email fraud, data loss, and brand damage.
Barracuda Essentials is an all-in-one email security, archiving, backup, and recovery solution for your Office 365 environment. With both inbound and outbound email filtering, it stops spear phishing attempts before they reach your inbox.
Barracuda Sentinel uses artificial intelligence and deep integration with Office 365 to preemptively stop spear phishing and account takeover attacks, as well as detecting threats already sitting in your inbox.
Barracuda Email Security Gateway is an email security gateway that manages and filters all inbound and outbound email traffic to protect organizations from email-borne threats and data leaks.