10 Different Types of Phishing Attacks

10 Different Types of Phishing Attacks

Phishing attempts occur on a daily basis and involve attackers trying to trick individuals into providing sensitive, confidential information. Phishing is one of the most common cybersecurity threats and basically uses social engineering tactics to make people take actions that are against their best interests. It is important for organizations to learn what different types of phishing attacks can occur and how to protect against them.

1. Email phishing

The attacker sends an email that looks legitimate and purports to be from a trusted sender. It expresses urgency around the need to click on a link. This takes the recipient to a fake domain, where they enter information. The attacker can then intercept the data and steal or sell information. The fake domain often uses character substitution, such as using an ‘r’ and ‘n’ next to each other instead of an ‘m’ so that it looks legitimate. Recipients should check the email address of any message that asks them to click on a link or download an attachment.  

Using an advanced threat detection solution with the right combination of phishing prevention techniques means organizations can prevent phishing attacks. They don’t have to rely on the abilities of employees’ to identify sophisticated phishing attacks.  

2. Spear phishing

Spear phishing targets a specific individual about whom the attacker has prior knowledge. The attacker gathers information about the person before starting the attack. This may be the person’s name, position in an organization, email address and specific information about their job role. The person is then lured to click on a link and asked to submit private information. Spear phishing emails are more convincing than standard email scams. 

To identify spear phishing, look out for internal requests coming from other departments or that do not seem related to job function. Be wary of links to documents stored on shared drives because they can redirect users to a fake website.  

3. Whaling

Whaling attempts are more targeted than spear phishing. This is a type of phishing attack where the attacker targets high-profile individuals, such as C-level executives. Attackers don’t use a fake link in this case but impersonate a senior staff member. They commonly use the ruse of being a busy executive and ask the person to do them a favor. 

If a senior executive has never asked for such a favor before, be wary of performing the requested action. 

4. Smishing and vishing

With both smishing and vishing, phones are used instead of emails to try and extract information. Attackers may send text messages or have a phone conversation with the intended victim. 

A common smishing text may purport to come from the bank to alert the person to suspicious activity. They are instructed to follow a link to prevent any further suspicious activity from taking place. The link goes to a website controlled by the attacker. 

Many people receive fake phone calls from criminals purporting to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This can trick the recipient into giving away personal information.

5. Bitcoin phishing

Just like any other phishing attack, criminals send emails to recipients that bait them to click links and input their personal information, including their crypto wallet key info. People are lured to websites for buying and selling bitcoins that look as though they offer legitimate opportunities. They may use the right jargon and fake testimonials to appear legitimate. 

Promises to multiply your investment, misspellings, and vague details can be red flags that it’s a scam.   

6. Angler phishing

Social media has become another common place for phishing attacks. Angler phishing is when an attacker uses direct messaging features in a social media application. They will attempt to entice people to take any action that isn’t in their best interests. Rather not click on a link in a message no matter how legitimate it may appear.  

7. Pop-up phishing

Many people use pop-up blockers, but pop-up phishing still poses a risk. The content of these messages is effective because it can convince website visitors that the security of computers is at risk. They may end up buying antivirus software they don’t need or get tricked into installing malware on their computers.    

8. Clone phishing

Attackers may do some research to find out which services an organization uses regularly and then send emails claiming to come from these services. People are so used to using these services that they will unsuspectingly click on links in emails that appear to come from them. 

9. Watering hole phishing

Attackers may do some research about websites an organization’s employees visit regularly. They then infect the IP address with malicious code. When users visit the website, they download the malicious code. The website may be that of a third-party vendor or one that provides interesting industry news.  

10. Pharming

A pharming attack involves the use of malicious code that directs a victim to a fake website where credentials and data can be stolen. Users are automatically redirected to the spoofed site, so they don’t even have to click a link to go there themselves. 

In malware-based pharming, internet users can pick up malware, such as a virus or Trojan House, through a malicious email. The downloaded malware covertly reroutes the user to the fake website. The malicious code stays on the user’s computer and can corrupt locally hosted files and change stored IP addresses. 

Unlike using malware, DNS server poisoning exploits vulnerabilities at the DNS server level. When a large DNS server is corrupted, it can result in the targeting and scamming of whole groups of individuals. Pharming is much more targeted and difficult to detect than email phishing. Attackers are skilled at hiding their attempts from users.    

Bot detection lookup is a process of identifying and blocking malicious bots that attempt to automate online activities, such as spamming, scraping, or credential stuffing, to protect websites from fraud.


Phishing attempts are becoming more sophisticated all the time and can be difficult to detect. Organizations can use various tactics to prevent attackers from infiltrating their software, networks and systems and mitigate phishing risks. There are advanced threat detection systems available today which can prevent even the more sophisticated phishing attacks. 

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