Common Indicators & Risks of Executive Phishing, Smishing and Vishing

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The number of cyber attacks on businesses continues to increase as hackers learn more about company leaders from professional and social media platforms. Online con artists use social engineering as the basis for persuasive communications delivered electronically. And when a directive comes from what seems like a company leader, employees are inclined to comply. But by onboarding cyber security services and educating employees about phishing, smishing, and vishing attacks, unnecessary losses can be avoided.

Link Between Social Engineering & Phishing, Smishing and Vishing

Social engineering attacks are the bedrock of phishing, smishing, and vishing. Cyber criminals target individuals by trolling the internet for personal and convincing information. This may involve reviewing platforms such as LinkedIn to build a file based on professional history and business associations. Hackers almost always check out social media profiles such as Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), TikTok, and others. 

An analysis of your posts offers digital scammers insight into your personal life. With this research in hand, cyber criminals leverage the information to create a persuasive narrative sent in the form of phishing, smishing, and vishing attacks.

What are Smishing Attacks?

This social engineering delivery system relies on SMS, more commonly known as text messages. Hackers have discovered this method helps encourage a sense of urgency from the recipient. That’s largely because people are more inclined to respond to incoming queries quickly. Phone users are also prone to click on websites and video links they receive from trusted sources. Upwards of 76 percent of all global organizations experienced smishing attacks in 2022, a 1 percent increase over the previous year.

What is Vishing?

This social engineering approach leverages voice communication to elicit a response from recipients. Skilled cyber criminals may employ vishing in conjunction with other schemes, notably phishing and smishing. The idea is to impersonate a trusted individual or authority figure in an effort to get the mark to divulge confidential information. Vishing was the linchpin in the devastating Scattered Spiders cyber attack on Caesars and MGM casinos in Las Vegas. In some cases, sophisticated hackers can use Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems to trick people by gaming caller ID.

What is Phishing?

Phishing schemes are usually emails designed to solicit a response from the recipient. The electronic message may appear to have been written by a credit source, such as a well-known company, business colleague, friend, or family member. The email includes social engineering information that makes it seem credible.

Readers are asked to provide sensitive data such as username and password credentials, credit card numbers, or even make a financial contribution or transfer. Phishing schemes have proven particularly effective during times of natural disaster and crisis. According to the Federal Trade Commission, phishing attacks surged by 220 percent during the pandemic. Cyber criminals with a certain level of confidence may go big game hunting in the form of executive phishing.

What is Executive Phishing?

Bringing together social engineering and the various delivery systems, executive phishing involves a hacker posing as a corporate leader, often the CEO. Electronic or VoIP messages are usually designed to gain access to sensitive and financial data. In some cases, executive phishing schemes request large money transfers. Companies have lost millions from executive phishing schemes, which is why it’s critical to identify phishing red flags of a social engineering-based attack.

What is a Common Indicator of a Phishing Attempt?

The average cost of a data breach hovers above $4.45 million. That's why the importance of business leaders and front-line employees having the ability to recognize the telltale signs of phishing, vishing, and smishing attacks cannot be understated. These are common indicators that staff members need to know.

  • Suspicious Addresses: Hackers often attempt to mimic a legitimate business’s email account. These scams can be rendered feeble by looking closely and noticing altered characters.
  • Generic Aspects: Garden variety hackers may send out thousands of emails and text messages using generic greetings and signatures. Their strategy is to cast a wide net in hopes of catching a few fish. A trusted source generally uses someone’s correct name.
  • Spoofed Links: Phony websites and hyperlinks are traps designed to get recipients to click through and trigger malware. Never click on links sent via email or text messages until they have been thoroughly vetted. Like suspicious addresses, they mimic legitimate platforms. Look for discrepancies or go to the real website without clicking the link.

It’s also crucial to never download files should you have reservations about their origins or legitimacy. One of the best ways to avoid these and other types of social engineering-based attacks is to provide staff members with ongoing cyber security awareness training and a go-to checklist.

Contact a Trusted Cybersecurity & Managed IT Service Provider

At CyberTeam, our managed IT and cyber security experts have the experience and technology you need to protect your company from social engineering attacks. Contact CyberTeam and schedule a risk assessment to learn more about your vulnerabilities and how we can help.

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