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What is "Spear Phishing" ?

Publication: 
Editorial Staff
chiefofficersnet

Today, the US cyber security office, US-CERT has issued a renewed warning about HIDDEN COBRA which it describes as a "spear phishing" virus.

What does that mean?

Phishing is indiscriminate: e-mails are sent to millions of random e-mail addresses with no personalisation other than the address.

Spear Phishing is highly targeted, using the recipient's name (even if it is only to address the mail to the part of the e-mail before the @ - eg, for an e-mail as userfred@nomail.com, the mail would say "Dear userfred."

The aim is to make the target do something - perhaps to fill in a form containing bank or payment card details, perhaps to visit a weblink from which malware of one sort or another is downloaded either because you click on another link or because the system automatically pushes it to your PC.

Spear phishing is difficult to stop because the e-mails are accurately targeted and therefore are far more plausible than other forms but, also, because each one is different, bulk mail scanners often miss them.

There is one approach that will help prevent clicking on apparently innocuous or even well-known links - that of disabling HTML / Rich Text e-mail in all e-mail readers.

In plain text, it is obvious what website the link will take the reader to.