Businesses can't ignore ‘spear phishing’ attacks

Attacks this week against personal webmail accounts have raised the profile of phishing, which could also be used against businesses.

A security researcher has warned that people are just as likely to fall for phishing attacks on work PCs as on their own, especially through spear phishing' incidents where emails are crafted to fool specific employees.

Neil Campbell, global manager of security solutions at Dimension Data, said that most consumer phishing attacks were usually targeted at internet banking systems. In the corporate world, phishing emails are generally looking for confidential information about security mechanisms.

Such spear phishing attacks are better targeted than standard phishing attempts, as they try to get the employee to believe that the email is coming from a genuine business partner or organisation.

"There comes a time when a message addresses you directly and talks about departments in your workplace, and maybe some projects that are active, and maybe makes a specific information request... It gets difficult to pick fact and fiction," Campbell said.

"Anyone can potentially fall example to this, and you do see a gradual increase in sophistication. With crime you get more competition, and with more competition you get improved technique," he added.

One example of this was where the director of the FBI Robert S. Mueller said in a speech that he almost fell victim to a phishing attack, although part of his job was to protect others from the risk of cyber crime.

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