Feeds

Beware the malware-tipped SPEAR TRAP in your inbox

That person who knows all about you? Not your friend

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

The vast majority (91 per cent) of targeted attacks begin with a spear phishing email, according to a new study by Trend Micro.

Spear phishing is a form of phishing that makes use of information about a target to make attacks more specific and “personal”. These attacks may, for example, refer to their targets by their specific name, rank, or position at the organisation instead of using generic titles common in broader (consumer focused) phishing campaigns. The end goal is usually to trick prospective victims into opening a malicious file attachment (in 94 per cent of cases) or to follow links to an exploit-laden site.

The most commonly used and shared file types accounted for 70 per cent of the total number of spear phishing email attachments during the period of Trend's study, between February and September this year. The main file types were: .RTF (38 per cent), .XLS (15 per cent) and .ZIP (13 per cent). Executable (.EXE) files were not as popular among cybercriminals, most likely because emails with .EXE file attachments are usually detected and blocked by security products at the edge of corporate networks, long before they reach the in-box of prospective marks.

Targeted attacks are often malware-based and designed to infect networks, stay resident, explore, further infect and steal information. This information can be anything from emails to technology blueprints, policy documents or research.

Aside from spear phishing, other tactics that have been noted in targeted attacks include the use of removable media (USB, CD etc), theft of credentials giving access to systems and networks (eg, VPNs).

Spear phishers most frequently target government and activist groups. Details of government agencies and appointed officials are often posted on public government websites.  Members of activist groups are often active in social media, and are also quick to provide member information in order to facilitate campaigning or recruit new members. As a result, three out of four of the targeted victims’ email addresses were easily found through web searches or using common email address formats.

The percentage of malicious attachments in emails has been in steady decline over recent years. But the researchers insist this trend is likely to reverse itself, bringing with it extra spam and the need to redesign corporate defences, according to Trend Micro.

"We fully expect to see a resurgence of malicious email as targeted attacks expand and evolve,” said Rik Ferguson, director of security research and communications at Trend Micro. “Experience has shown us that criminals continue to abuse tried and trusted methods to directly leverage intelligence gathered during the reconnaissance for targeted attacks."

"We have also seen that targeted attacks are evolving and expanding. The abundance of information on individuals and companies makes the job of creating extremely credible emails far too simple. It's a part of a custom defence that should not be ignored."

Trend's study can be found here (PDF). ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Goog says patch⁵⁰ your Chrome
64-bit browser loads cat vids FIFTEEN PERCENT faster!
JLaw, Kate Upton EXPOSED in celeb nude pics hack
100 women victimised as Apple iCloud accounts reportedly popped
NIST to sysadmins: clean up your SSH mess
Too many keys, too badly managed
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
Researchers camouflage haxxor traps with fake application traffic
Honeypots sweetened to resemble actual workloads, complete with 'secure' logins
Attack flogged through shiny-clicky social media buttons
66,000 users popped by malicious Flash fudging add-on
New Snowden leak: How NSA shared 850-billion-plus metadata records
'Federated search' spaffed info all over Five Eyes chums
Three quarters of South Korea popped in online gaming raids
Records used to plunder game items, sold off to low lifes
Oz fed police in PDF redaction SNAFU
Give us your metadata, we'll publish your data
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.