What is a Phishing Campaign?
A phishing campaign is a scam created by cybercriminals to steal financial resources or sensitive data from victims using manipulative emails or other fraudulent digital assets.
Phishing is a type of cyberattack that uses fraudulent communications via email, social media, or business messaging platforms, to trick the unsuspecting target into divulging sensitive data.
Phishing attacks often use deceptive techniques, such as email spoofing and domain spoofing, to fool the victim about the identity of the sender. They may also employ fraudulent digital assets such as fake websites and social media profiles to impersonate a trusted brand and collect data from victims. They may attempt to install a malicious software program on the victim’s device.
Phishing attacks often leverage social engineering techniques, such as:
- Pretexting – Phishing attacks often include a message, sent by email or social media, with completely made-up information that creates a false pretext for the victim to believe the message contents and follow the attacker’s instructions.
- Baiting – The phishing email or social media message offers something of value, enticing the victim to follow the attacker’s instructions.
- Psychological Manipulation – The phishing email contains a message that attempts to change the victim’s psychological state, encouraging them to fulfill the attacker’s intentions. The message might be crafted to take advantage of the victim’s greed, their desire to help, or their curiosity.
- Impersonation – The phishing campaign might use email spoofing to impersonate a trusted friend, colleague, or business associate of the victim.
How Does a Phishing Campaign Work?
Phishing campaigns can be executed in many different ways, with sophistication levels that range from rudimentary to complex.
The simplest phishing campaigns rely on text-based communication and social engineering techniques to manipulate victims into divulging their sensitive data. More sophisticated attacks will use spoofing, fake websites, or malware scripts to fool the victim and steal their data.
Here’s how a phishing campaign works:
- Research and Target Selection – Attackers may choose to target private individuals, business organizations, NGOs, or government agencies.
- Phishing Campaign Design – Attackers design the phishing campaign to exploit technical or human security vulnerabilities in the target organization.
- Fraudulent Asset and Payload Development – Attackers develop a payload (e.g. computer virus or malware) and fraudulent assets to support the attack.
- Deploying the Attack – Attackers deploy the phishing campaign by sending fraudulent communications to the target via email, social media, collaboration platforms, or other vectors.
- Delivering the Payload – When a phishing attack is successful, the payload is delivered to the target and attackers may be able to gain unauthorized access to the target device or network.
- Stealing Data Assets – After gaining access to the target network, attackers can work to exfiltrate data assets, steal financial resources, or damage system availability.
Examples of Phishing Campaigns
The victim receives a phishing email saying that they’ve inherited some cash from a dead relative overseas, but must pay an advance-fee to collect the money. Once the fee is paid, the scammer vanishes – and, of course, the inheritance never existed.
This type of phishing campaign targets private citizens and uses communication and social engineering techniques to exploit the target’s greed.
During COVID-19, cyberattackers developed a phishing campaign that targeted corporate email accounts with a fake back-to-work notification. Email spoofing was used to conceal the true sender of the email and recipients were asked to open an HTML attachment containing the new remote work policy. The document included a link to a fake login page that would allow cyberattacks to steal the victim’s email access credentials.
Some of the most damaging phishing campaigns have used CEO fraud and impersonation to target executives at the top of large organizations. In one case, a U.S. drug company was defrauded of over $39 million in four weeks by a phishing campaign that involved CEO impersonation.
The Information Security Office at UC Berkeley maintains an archive of phishing campaign examples to help educate its faculty and workforce on how to avoid falling victim to a phishing scam.
What is a Phishing Simulation?
A phishing simulation is a technique that SecOps teams can use to educate and train business executives and the enterprise workforce to recognize and avoid falling victim to a real phishing campaign.
In a phishing simulation, enterprise SecOps teams design their own phishing campaigns and use them to target employees of the business with spoofed emails, malicious links, or harmful email attachments. SecOps teams can monitor whether the simulated attack was successful, then provide targeted education and resources to help the employee get better at detecting and recognizing phishing attacks.
Phishing simulations reveal which employees might be most susceptible to a phishing campaign and allow SecOps teams to efficiently allocate their resources towards education and prevention.
How Does ZeroFOX Protect against Phishing Campaigns?
ZeroFOX provides enterprises protection, intelligence, and disruption to detect phishing campaign messages and dismantle phishing campaign assets across the public attack surface.
ZeroFOX phishing abuse protection leverages advanced AI to analyze inbound emails at scale, alerting users to phishing campaigns and preventing them from clicking malicious links or compromising their data.
Check out our free InfoSec Guide: Addressing the Rise in Phishing and Financial Fraud to learn how phishing kit operators run scams and what you can do to protect your organization against phishing campaigns.