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Types of Email Attacks

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Many people rely on the Internet for many of their professional, social, and personal activities. But there are also people who attempt to damage our Internet-connected computers, violate our privacy and render inoperable Internet services. Email is a universal service used by over a billion people worldwide. As one of the most popular services, email has become a major vulnerability to users and organizations.

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Types of Email Attacks


Phishing is a form of fraud. Cybercriminals use email, instant messaging, or other social media to try to gather information such as login credentials by masquerading as a reputable person. Phishing occurs when a malicious party sends a fraudulent email disguised as being from an authorized, trusted source. The message’s intent is to trick the recipient into installing malware on his or her device or into sharing personal or financial information. Spear phishing is a highly targeted phishing attack. While phishing and spear-phishing both use emails to reach the victims, spear-phishing sends customized emails to a specific person. The criminal researched the target’s interests before sending the email. Phishing attacks involve sending emails that appear to come from a trusted source, such as a bank or an online retailer, to trick users into revealing sensitive information, such as passwords or credit card numbers. One advantage of this attack is that it can be easily carried out using basic social engineering techniques, without the need for sophisticated tools or technical skills.


It can be easily detected if users know the legitimate source of the email and are cautious about clicking on links or downloading attachments.


The Vishing is phishing using voice communication technology. Criminals can spoof calls from authorized sources using voice-over IP technology. Victims may also receive a recorded message that appears authorized. Criminals want to obtain credit card numbers or other information to steal the victim’s identity. Vishing takes advantage of the fact that people trust the telephone network. Spear phishing is a targeted version of phishing that involves sending customized emails to a specific individual or group of individuals. These emails are designed to look like they come from a trusted source and are personalized to increase the likelihood of the victim falling for the attack. One advantage of this attack is that it can be highly effective, as the attacker has done research on the victim to make the email seem more legitimate. 


Smishing is phishing using text messaging on mobile phones. Criminals impersonate a legitimate source in an attempt to gain the trust of the victim. For example, a smishing attack might send the victim a website link. When the victim visits the website, malware is installed on the mobile phone.


The Whaling is a phishing attack that targets high-profile targets within an organization such as senior executives. Additional targets include politicians or celebrities. Whaling is a type of spear phishing attack that targets high-level executives or other high-value targets within an organization. These emails are designed to look like they come from a senior executive, such as the CEO or CFO, and often involve requests for money transfers or other sensitive information. One advantage of this attack is that it can be highly lucrative for the attacker, as they can potentially steal large sums of money or valuable information. 


It requires a high degree of sophistication and social engineering skills.


Pharming is the impersonation of an authorized website in an effort to deceive users into entering their credentials. Pharming misdirects users to a fake website that appears to be official. Victims then enter their personal information thinking that they are connected to a legitimate site.


Spyware is software that enables a criminal to obtain information about a user’s computer activities. Spyware often includes activity trackers, keystroke collection, and data capture. In an attempt to overcome security measures, spyware often modifies security settings. Spyware often bundles itself with legitimate software or with Trojan horses. Many shareware websites are full of spyware.


Scareware persuades the user to take a specific action based on fear. Scareware forges pop-up windows that resemble operating system dialogue windows. These windows convey forged messages stating that the system is at risk or needs the execution of a specific program to return to normal operation. In reality, no problems exist, and if the user agrees and allows the mentioned program to execute, malware infects his or her system.


Adware typically displays annoying pop-ups to generate revenue for its authors. The malware may analyze user interests by tracking the websites visited. It can then send pop-up advertising relevant to those sites. Some versions of software automatically install Adware.


Spam (also known as junk mail) is an unsolicited email. In most cases, spam is a method of advertising. However, spam can send harmful links, malware, or deceptive content. The end goal is to obtain sensitive information such as a social security number or bank account information. Most spam comes from multiple computers on networks infected by a virus or worm. These compromised computers send out as many bulk email as possible.

How To Protect Yourself from Email Attacks?

  1. Be cautious when opening emails from unknown sources.
  2. Look for signs of phishing, such as spelling errors, suspicious links or attachments, and requests for personal information.
  3. Use strong passwords and two-factor authentication to protect your email account.
  4. Keep your computer and software up-to-date with the latest security patches.
  5. Use antivirus and anti-malware software to detect and prevent email attacks.
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Last Updated : 30 May, 2023
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