What is Spear Phishing?

Spear phishing is an email or electronic communication fraud that targets a single person, company, or organization. Cybercriminals may plan to install malware on a targeted user's machine in addition to stealing data for nefarious objectives.

An email appears to be from a reliable source, but it directs the unwitting receiver to a fraudulent website containing malware. These emails frequently employ deceptive strategies to capture the attention of their recipients. The FBI, for example, has cautioned against spear-phishing schemes posing as emails from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Spear Phishing Techniques

Following are some of the common spear-phishing techniques −

  • BEC (Business Email Compromise)

  • Clone Phishing

  • Whaling

BEC (Business Email Compromise)

Also known as CEO fraud, this approach involves hackers spoofing a top executive's email account. They then utilise this access to ask additional workers for login credentials, money, and sensitive information, such as other executives, senior staff, legal teams, and trusted vendors and partners. A successful BEC assault allows a hacker to get full access to a top executive's account, which can have devastating consequences and result in significant financial losses for a company.

Clone Phishing

In a clone phishing assault, hackers construct a near-identical duplicate of a valid email message in order to dupe recipients into believing it is real. The message is usually sent using a legitimate-looking email account that uses a typosquatted domain or a bogus URL to make the message appear legitimate. It will, however, contain a malicious file or hyperlink that directs the target to a cloned website with a faked name in order to dupe them into divulging critical information.


Attacks against high-profile persons such as C-level executives, celebrities, and politicians are also common. Whaling is comparable to spear-phishing in that it takes a high-risk strategy.

How to Prevent Spear Phishing?

Since these assaults are so well-tailored, traditional security typically fails to stop them. As a result, detecting such attacks is growing increasingly difficult. Businesses, governments, and even charitable groups can be severely harmed by a single personnel error.

Fraudsters can use stolen data to divulge commercially sensitive information, influence stock prices, or commit espionage. Furthermore, spear-phishing assaults can utilise malware to hijack computers, forming massive networks known as botnets that can be used to launch denial-of-service attacks.

Employees must be informed of the hazards, such as the likelihood of receiving fraudulent emails, in order to combat spear phishing attacks. For example, a company can create regulations that prevent payments from being completed without many steps of authorization, confirmation over the phone, or signatures from various persons. This will lower the chances of key executives or suppliers being successfully impersonated.

Separate workstations can also be used for email and web surfing, as well as invoicing and payment chores. This may reduce the chances of computers being compromised with malware that targets banking, financial, or payroll data.