10 Types of Phishing Attacks That Can Damage Your Business

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Phishing, a type of social engineering attack, is one of the most prevalent attacks in recent years, owing to its simplicity and effectiveness. Further, several different types of phishing attacks exist for cybercriminals to do their bidding.

Given its prevalence and severity, it is important to understand the different types of phishing attacks to prevent them from wreaking havoc on your business. This article delves into the 10 most damaging types of phishing techniques.

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10 Most Damaging Types of Phishing Attacks

  1. Mass Market Email Phishing/ Deceptive Phishing

Deceptive phishing/ mass-market email phishing is the most common type of phishing. In this type of phishing attack, cybercriminals leverage what is known as the 'spray and pray technique’. They impersonate legitimate entities such as businesses, organizations, or individuals and send out mass emails to as many addresses as they can gather.

The emails are crafted carefully to create a sense of urgency (often led by fear) to take immediate action without checking. The emails contain a call to action such as clicking on a malicious link that leads to a fake login, downloading a malicious attachment, sending money, visiting a fraudulent website, etc.

  1. Spear Phishing

Spear phishing is the type of phishing attack that targets specific users, unlike deceptive phishing that uses the 'spray and pray' technique. Here, the cybercriminal targets specific employees within targeted organizations or even one employee in a targeted organization.

The email is personalized using information gathered about the targets through social media profiles and other public information. Since the emails seem to come from a trusted source such as a colleague, manager, HR team, or a corporate entity, the unsuspecting victim gets tricked into taking action.

  1. Whaling

This type of phishing attack is targeted against the big fish – the top executives of organizations. The idea behind whaling is that gaining access to the credentials of high-ranking executives is more valuable as CEOs, CFOs, etc., have access to more sensitive information than regular employees. This way, attackers can bring the entire business to a grinding halt or cause massive damages. The emails may take the form of customer complaints, legal subpoenas, etc., that prompt the target to take instant action without thinking much.

  1. Business Email Compromise/ CEO Fraud

The most expensive attack vector in 2021, business email compromise, is the type of phishing attack that targets specific users/ key individuals in departments such as finance, accounting, etc. Using the compromised business email accounts of high-ranking executives such as CEOs, CFOs, etc., the attacker impersonates the executive and tricks the targeted users into initiating fund transfers, providing credentials, etc. Since the email creates a false sense of urgency and comes from a trusted business account, the target ends up doing the attacker's bidding.

  1. Smishing

Smishing is a type of phishing attack that uses SMS or text messages to mislead unsuspecting victims. This technique is similar to email phishing as the end goal is to trick victims into downloading payloads, giving away credentials, and so on.

Some popular lures used are discounts, savings coupons, free tickets, winning contests, etc. Attackers may pose as popular restaurants, known businesses, or even credit card companies to orchestrate smishing.

  1. Vishing

Vishing or voice phishing is similar to smishing and email phishing but is orchestrated using phone calls or Voice over IP (VoIP) servers instead of SMS or emails. The attackers disguise themselves as trusted entities such as banks, insurance companies, government entities, etc., or send an automated voice message to get the victim to enter confidential information. For instance, they may say that the victim's account is blocked and must enter sensitive information to save their account.

  1. Clone Phishing

In this type of phishing attack, the attacker replicates a legitimate message a user may have already received and swaps the legitimate link/ attachment with payload. The attacker may claim that the message is being resent since there was a problem with the link in the previous communication and coaxes the user into clicking the malicious link.

  1. Pharming

A highly sophisticated type of phishing technique, pharming involves DNS cache poisoning. Here, the attacker targets DNS servers to redirect users to malicious websites by changing the website's IP address. This form of social engineering attack doesn’t require an initial click to take you to a malicious website. Instead, you have redirected there automatically – where the attackers then have access to any personal details you disclose. The pharmers either use your personnel information for a fraudulent purpose or sell it on the dark web.

Pharmers generally target financial sectors including online payment platforms, banks, or eCommerce sites with identity theft as their supreme target.

  1. Evil Twin Phishing

Here, the attacker sets up a Wi-Fi hotspot that looks very close to the real network. However, when the user connects to the network, the attacker can eavesdrop, compromise accounts, gain access to confidential information or redirect users to fake websites where they install the payload.

  1. Social Media Phishing

In this type of phishing, the attacker leverages social media platforms to lure and exploit unsuspecting victims by impersonating known brands.

Along with phone calls, texts, and email messages, social media is also a favorite and simple method for hackers to approach people with the intention of committing identity or financial fraud. With over 3.6 billion people logging on to their social media accounts and the trust that people have in their community of users, this type of phishing provides a high rate of success for fraudsters.


In 2021, the average cost of phishing attacks to businesses was USD 4.65 million. Large organizations could face costs to the tune of USD 15 million annually and over USD 1500 per employee permeating from different types of phishing. Not only phishing, but any type of cyberattacks can also be expensive for organizations regardless of size.

Instead of paying towards recovering from the damages, invest in cybersecurity solutions and avoid falling prey to cyberattacks. To prevent the different types of phishing attacks and keep your business completely protected, onboard an advanced security solution from experts.