Zscaler, recently released findings of its 2022 ThreatLabz Phishing Report reviewing 12 months of Global Phishing data, identified key trends, industries and geographies at risk, and emerging tactics. Cybercriminals are using current events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic or cryptocurrency, to convince unwitting victims to hand over confidential data and login credentials.

The research team analyzed data from more than 200 billion daily transactions, and 150 million daily blocked attacks in order to identify emerging threats and track malicious actors from across the globe.

Most targeted Phishing Targets in 2021

Key findings:

• Phishing attacks rose 29% in 2021 compared to 2020.

• Microsoft, Telegram, Amazon, OneDrive, and Paypal topped the growing list of targeted brands.

• The United States, Singapore, Germany, Netherlands, and the UK were the top five most targeted countries.

• Retail and wholesale were the most targeted industries, experiencing the highest increase in phishing attacks at +436%.

• “Phishing-as-a-service” has contributed greatly to the growth of phishing, offering a marketplace of pre-built tools that reduce technical barriers to entry for criminals.

• Emerging phishing vectors such as SMS phishing are increasing faster than phishing overall as end users become more wary of suspicious emails.

• Attackers continue to capitalize on the news cycle. Example: COVID-19 and crypto-themed phishing attacks.

The report also showed an emerging reliance on phishing-as-a-service methods, as well as new attack vectors, such as SMS phishing, becoming one of the more prevalent methods of intrusion.

“Phishing attacks are hitting businesses and consumers with an alarming frequency, complexity, and scope. Our annual Phishing report highlights exactly how cybercriminals are using this prevalent attack vector as a starting point as they attempt to breach organizations around the globe,” said Deepen Desai, CISO and VP of Security Research and Operations at Zscaler”.

Phishing-as-a-Service – The Growing Threat

Cybercriminals are making it easier to deploy phishing scams at scale, creating a greater chance for more phishing activity in 2022. The object is to  sell their pre-built phishing tools and services on the dark web,

This outsourcing of services, known as Phishing-as-a-Service, provides easy access to two of the most popular attack offerings: phishing kits and open-source phishing frameworks. The 2022 ThreatLabz Phishing Report outlines the value of these two offerings.

  • Phishing kits: According to the ThreatLabz research team, phishing kits package up and commoditize everything required to quickly launch hundreds or thousands of convincing and effective phishing pages using pre-built templates. Phishing Kits help attackers quickly create an online infrastructure that provides the thin veneer of legitimacy required to convince their victims to hand over private information.
  • Open-source phishing frameworks: Open-source frameworks are an alternative to phishing kits often found on code sharing forums like StackOverflow and GitHub. These frameworks have various features that can automate parts of a phishing attack or even the entire process. As these frameworks are open source and free, they are a popular option for phishing actors of all sizes.

Countering Phishing Attacks

According to the Zscaler ThreatLabz research team, an average-sized organization receives dozens of phishing emails every day. This means that employees at all levels must be aware of the most common phishing tactics and empowered to spot phishing attempts that can result in financial losses and damage to the business’ brand. 

 Zscaler suggests the following tactics for countering phishing growth:

  • Learning and understanding the risks posed by phishing to better inform policy and technology decisions
  • Leveraging automated tools and actionable intelligence to empower employees with the tools needed to reduce phishing incidents
  • Delivering timely employee training create awareness and promote user reporting
  • Simulating phishing attacks to identify gaps in security policies and procedures
  • Evaluating security infrastructure to ensure access to the latest research and system capabilities

How the Zscaler Zero Trust ExchangeCan Mitigate Phishing Attacks

 Zscaler Zero Trust Exchange incorporates phishing prevention controls into a holistic zero trust.Capabilities include: 

  • Preventing compromise with full SSL inspection at scale, threat analysis using natively integrated threat intel including IPS signatures of phishing kits, AI/ML-powered heuristic detection of novel phishing sites
  • Eliminating lateral movement by connecting users directly to apps.
  • Shutting down compromised users and insider threats with in-line application inspection and integrated deception capabilities to trick and detect attackers.
  • Stopping data loss by inspecting data both in motion and at rest to prevent theft by an active attacker.

(Image Courtesy:www.atinet.in)

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