An aggressive breed of phishing attacks is well underway, with 91 per cent of targeted attacks derived from spear phishing emails, according to Trend Micro.
Its recent study, Spear Phishing Email: Most Favored APT Attack Bait, analysed targeted attack data collected between February and September this year.
According to Trend Micro, the finding reinforces its position that these attacks often begin at a very simple point of contact or an exploit-laden site, starting a compromise within the victim’s network. The report also found that 94 per cent of targeted emails use malicious file attachments as the payload or infection source. The remaining six per cent use alternative methods such as installing malware through malicious links that download malicious files. Trend Micro A/NZ senior threat researcher, Jon Oliver, said spear phishing is the first step in the most sophisticated forms of cyber-attack. “Phishing in general has become more sophisticated, with these email attacks significantly increasing in number and maliciousness in 2012. They are now more likely to induce users to click on links and open attachments,” he said.
Oliver added that organisations need to ensure their email infrastructure is as secure as possible, and should educate their users about what email is safe to click on and which attachments are safe to open.
Other findings from the study include:
- The most commonly used and shared file types accounted for 70 per cent of the total number of spear phishing email attachments during the monitored time period. The main file types were: .RTF (38 per cent), .XLS (15 per cent), and .ZIP (13 per cent).
- The most highly targeted industries are government and activist groups.
- Three in four of the targeted victims email addresses are easily found through Web searches or using common email address formats.