Clone Phishing: What Organizations Need To Know

In today’s modern, digitally connected world, it’s customary for internet users to receive extraordinarily massive volumes of emails from service providers, companies, and other organizations.

While it may be irritating having to deal with numerous emails regularly, most people wouldn’t think twice about it and significantly trust the email senders’ veracity. But it’s this very trust that ends up placing cyberattack victims in the middle of online attacks.

Email phishing is now among the most complex and hard-to-spot attacks. In threat actors’ efforts to devise cunning ways to deceive unsuspecting users, clone phishing takes this category of cyber threats to the next level.

Both private and public organizations must be aware of what clone phishing entails, how to identify the threat, and how they can evade the attack. Otherwise, you risk exposing your data and company to further phishing attacks.

Clone Phishing: A Step Afar Elementary Phishing Attacks

Clone phishing attacks look like this: a cybercriminal clones a genuine email word-by-word from a trusted business or organization. Such attacks are harder to detect because this official-looking message seems to originate from a reliable source.

Threat actors add a layer of legitimacy to the attack by using display name spoofing, which tricks most recipients into thinking they’re actually reading an email message from a source they trust. In addition, these criminals carefully edit the once-legitimate email message by including links that redirect users to fake sites. They also attach malicious files that the receiver will be prompted to open or download.

Once a victim falls for the trap, the hacker proceeds to forward the cloned message to every contact in the targeted email account. Since it impersonates email addresses from trusted sources, there’s a higher likelihood of falling for the attack and opening the malicious attachment or link.

The most significant danger of this attack is it’s particularly hard to identify, and users are less likely to be suspicious. Furthermore, users can open the links included in the email without a second thought. This advanced trickery can infect numerous devices with malware and place your company’s data at risk of theft.

Types of Clone Phishing Attacks

Okay, so you understand that clone phishing abuses the essential trust that comes with a business relationship. But what does this malicious email look like?

Here are the most common forms of clone phishing emails.

  • Email messages originating from spoofed email addresses designed to trick recipients into believing that they’re from legitimate senders
  • Messages or emails claiming to come from resend emails from legitimate senders but are updated or edited in a way
  • An email message containing an attachment or link replaced with a different, malicious attachment or link

Think of it like this: If it’s a busy workday, you’re seated at your desk, and you receive a message from someone you trust, you won’t hesitate to comply with whatever request within the text to maintain the workflow continuity. When cybercriminals take advantage of this trust mentality, it’s like they’re abusing the system, but you’re the system in this scenario!

Phishers may also leverage clone phishing to escalate from a previously infected infrastructure and abuse this trust to gain a foothold on the other systems within your organization. As such, your teams should understand the red flags of clone phishing.

How to Identify Clone Phishing Attacks

Despite the complexity of clone phishing, several tell-tale signs still stand out and are visible even to someone with the least eye for detail. Let’s explore.

  • Mismatched URLs – Look out for any discrepancies or mismatches between the legitimate links and displaced URLs. You can easily confirm whether they match by simply hovering over the link in the email to tell where it leads.
  • Actual and apparent sender mismatches – Watch out for sender names that somehow appear off. Most of the time, the actual sender is someone entirely different.
  • Impersonated domains – Also known as domain spoofing, this is where a hacker seems to use a legitimate domain. Yet, in the real sense, they’re impersonating an organization or one of its staff. Check out for false domain names and sites containing slightly altered characters.
  • Common “phishy” mistakes – Also, be mindful of any suspicious misspellings in the email, grammatical mistakes, and other simple errors that legitimate senders cannot make.

With all these red flags in mind, you’ll quickly identify malicious email addresses that facilitate clone phishing attacks. But that alone isn’t enough. You must also take a preventative approach by following several best practices to avoid being a victim of this complex attack.

Steps to Avoid Falling Victim to Clone Phishing Scheme

Fortunately, you can take several measures to ensure you don’t fall victim to clone phishing attacks. Here are the key steps that you should follow:

Continuous Cybersecurity Training for Staff

This is among the most effective ways to deter cybercriminals who use clone phishing. Just as they’re your organization’s most vulnerable point, end-users can also be the last line of defense. Once they’re aware of the red flags and how to avoid them, they’ll indeed have the power to stop phishing attacks.

Use Anti-Spam Software

This is arguably the simplest way to deter a clone phishing attack because the software filters out any email that looks “phishy.” Thus, the organization administrator or end-users don’t even have to think about it.

Leverage Threat Management Solutions Like Firewalls

Like the previous point, this practical solution can be effective even without end-users thinking about it. Firewalls work in the background to identify sender discrepancies and mismatched URLs that could be signs of clone phishing.

Contact Senders

Reach out to the sender and verify whether the email you’ve received is legitimate. Most organizations emphasize this prevention measure as it notifies the other legitimate party.

Don’t Share Information

Avoid sharing information on any website with a fake or wrongly spelled domain.

Password Policy

Regularly update your passwords, and ensure all staff use hard-to-guess phrases comprising numbers, signs, and a combination of upper and lower cases.

Questions About Clone Phishing?

Clone phishing is considered the most detrimental form of phishing. The threat offers a heightened risk of harm since it capitalizes on user trust, mimicking other messages that they’ve received previously. As a result, they’re more likely to follow the prompts in malicious emails. The scary fact is that a single click on a malicious link is enough to compromise your system and potentially all your company’s systems.

Fortunately, your company will be far less likely to be affected if you follow the above fairly straightforward steps to identify and prevent clone phishing. What’s more, you need to partner with a reliable IT service with vast experience navigating the hurdles of the current cybersecurity landscape.

Mathe is your trusted partner for this, so don’t hesitate to schedule a free consultation.

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