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Phishing is a type of social engineering where an attacker sends a fraudulent (e.g., spoofed, fake, or otherwise deceptive) message designed to trick a human victim into revealing
sensitive information Information sensitivity is the control of access to information Access may refer to: Companies and organizations * ACCESS (Australia), an Australian youth network * Access (credit card), a former credit card in the United Kingdom * Access Co., a ...
to the attacker or to deploy malicious software on the victim's infrastructure like
ransomware Ransomware is a type of malware Malware (a portmanteau for malicious software) is any software intentionally designed to cause disruption to a computer, server (computing), server, Client (computing), client, or computer network, leak private ...
. Phishing attacks have become increasingly sophisticated and often transparently mirror the site being targeted, allowing the attacker to observe everything while the victim is navigating the site, and transverse any additional security boundaries with the victim. As of 2020, phishing is by far the most common attack performed by cybercriminals, with the
FBI The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the domestic intelligence Intelligence has been defined in many ways: the capacity for abstraction, logic, understanding, self-awareness, learning, emotional knowledge, reasoning, planning, cre ...

FBI
's Internet Crime Complaint Centre recording over twice as many incidents of phishing than any other type of computer crime. The first recorded use of the term "phishing" was in the
cracking
cracking
toolkit
AOHell AOHell was a Windows application that was used to simplify ' cracking' using AOL. History AOHell was the first of what would become thousands of programs designed for hackers created for use with AOL. Starting around 1994 when a seventeen year ...
created by Koceilah Rekouche in 1995, however it is possible that the term was used before this in a print edition of the hacker magazine '' 2600''. The word is a
leetspeak Leet (or "1337"), also known as eleet or leetspeak, is a system of modified spellings used primarily on the Internet. It often uses character replacements in ways that play on the similarity of their glyphs via reflection (mathematics), reflec ...
variant of ''fishing'' (''ph'' is a common replacement for ''f'' ), probably influenced by
phreaking Phreaking is a slang Slang is vocabulary A vocabulary, also known as a wordstock or word-stock, is a set of familiar words within a person's language. A vocabulary, usually developed with age, serves as a useful and fundamental tool fo ...
, and alludes to the use of increasingly sophisticated lures to "fish" for users' sensitive information. Attempts to prevent or mitigate the impact of phishing incidents include
legislation Legislation is the process or product of enrolling, enacting, or promulgating Promulgation is the formal proclamation or the declaration that a new statute, statutory or administrative law is enacted after its final Enactment of a bill, appro ...
, user training, public awareness, and technical security measures. Phishing awareness is becoming essential at home and at the work place. For instance, from 2017 to 2020, phishing attacks have increased from 72 to 86% among businesses.


Types


Email phishing

Most phishing messages are delivered by email, and are not personalized or targeted to a specific individual or company–this is termed "bulk" phishing. The content of a bulk phishing message varies widely depending on the goal of the attacker–common targets for impersonation include banks and financial services, email and cloud productivity providers, and streaming services. Attackers may use the credentials obtained to directly steal money from a victim, although compromised accounts are often used instead as a jumping-off point to perform other attacks, such as the theft of proprietary information, the installation of
malware Malware (a portmanteau for malicious software) is any software intentionally designed to cause disruption to a computer, server (computing), server, Client (computing), client, or computer network, leak private information, gain unauthorized acc ...

malware
, or the spear phishing of other people within the target's organization. Compromised streaming service accounts are usually sold directly to consumers on
darknet market A darknet market is a commercial website on the web Web most often refers to: * Spider web A spider web, spiderweb, spider's web, or cobweb (from the archaic word '' coppe'', meaning "spider") is a structure created by a spider Spiders ( ...
s.


Spear phishing

Spear phishing involves an attacker directly targeting a specific organization or person with tailored phishing communications. This is essentially the creation and sending of emails to a particular person to make the person think the email is legitimate. In contrast to bulk phishing, spear phishing attackers often gather and use personal information about their target to increase their probability of success of the attack. Spear phishing typically targets executives or those that work in financial departments that have access to the organization's sensitive financial data and services. A 2019 study showed that accountancy and audit firms are frequent targets for spear phishing owing to their employees' access to information that could be valuable to criminals. Threat Group-4127 (Fancy Bear) used spear phishing tactics to target email accounts linked to
Hillary Clinton Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton ( Rodham; born October 26, 1947) is an American politician, diplomat, lawyer, writer, and public speaker who served as the from 2009 to 2013, as a from from 2001 to 2009, and as from 1993 to 2001 as the wife ...

Hillary Clinton
's 2016 presidential campaign. They attacked more than 1,800
Google Google LLC is an American multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multiple countries * Multinational force, a military body from multiple countries * Multinational stat ...

Google
accounts and implemented the accounts-google.com domain to threaten targeted users. A recent study tested the susceptibility of certain age groups against spear fishing. In total, 100 young and 58 older users received, without their knowledge, daily simulated phishing emails over 21 days. A browser plugin recorded their clicking on links in the emails as an indicator of their susceptibility. Forty-three percent of users fell for the simulated phishing emails, with older women showing the highest susceptibility. While susceptibility in young users declined across the study, susceptibility in older users remained stable.


Whaling and CEO fraud

Whaling refers to spear phishing attacks directed specifically at senior executives and other high-profile targets. The content will be likely crafted to be of interest to the person or role targeted - such as a
subpoena A subpoena (; also subpœna, supenna or subpena) or witness summons is a writ issued by a government agency, most often a court, to compel testimony by a witness or production of evidence under a penalty for failure. There are two common types of ...
or customer complaint. CEO fraud is effectively the opposite of whaling; it involves the crafting of spoofed emails purportedly ''from'' senior executives with the intention of getting other employees at an organization to perform a specific action, usually the wiring of money to an offshore account. While CEO fraud has a reasonably low success rate, criminals can gain very large sums of money from the few attempts that do succeed. There have been multiple instances of organizations losing tens of millions of dollars to such attacks.


Clone phishing

Clone phishing is a type of phishing attack whereby a legitimate, and previously delivered email containing an attachment or link has had its content and recipient address(es) taken and used to create an almost identical or cloned email. The attachment or link within the email is replaced with a malicious version and then sent from an email address spoofed to appear to come from the original sender. It may claim to be a resend of the original or an updated version to the original. Typically this requires either the sender or recipient to have been previously hacked for the malicious third party to obtain the legitimate email.


Voice phishing

Voice phishing, or vishing, is the use of telephony (often
Voice over IP Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), also called IP telephony, is a method and group of technologies for the delivery of voice communications and multimedia Multimedia is a form of communication that ...
telephony) to conduct phishing attacks. Attackers will dial a large quantity of telephone numbers and play automated recordings - often made using
text to speech Speech synthesis is the artificial production of human speech Speech is human vocal communication using language. Each language uses Phonetics, phonetic combinations of vowel and consonant sounds that form the sound of its words (that is, all ...
synthesizers - that make false claims of fraudulent activity on the victim's bank accounts or credit cards. The calling phone number will be spoofed to show the real number of the bank or institution impersonated. The victim is then directed to call a number controlled by the attackers, which will either automatically prompt them to enter sensitive information in order to "resolve" the supposed fraud, or connect them to a live person who will attempt to use social engineering to obtain information. Voice phishing capitalizes on the lower awareness among the general public of techniques such as caller ID spoofing and automated dialing, compared to the equivalents for email phishing, and thereby the inherent trust that many people have in voice telephony.


SMS phishing

SMS phishing or smishing is conceptually similar to email phishing, except attackers use to deliver the "bait". Smishing attacks typically invite the user to click a link, call a phone number, or contact an email address provided by the attacker via SMS message. The victim is then invited to provide their private data; often, credentials to other websites or services. Furthermore, due to the nature of mobile browsers, URLs may not be fully displayed; this may make it more difficult to identify an illegitimate logon page. As the mobile phone market is now saturated with
smartphone A smartphone is a Mobile device, portable device that combines Mobile phone, mobile telephone and Mobile computing, computing functions into one unit. They are distinguished from feature phones by their stronger hardware capabilities and exten ...

smartphone
s which all have fast internet connectivity, a malicious link sent via SMS can yield the same result as it would if sent via
email upThe email_address.html"_;"title="at_sign,_a_part_of_every_SMTP_email_address">at_sign,_a_part_of_every_SMTP_email_address Electronic_mail_(email_or_e-mail)_is_a_method_of_exchanging_messages_("mail")_between_people_using_electronic_dev ...

email
. Smishing messages may come from telephone numbers that are in a strange or unexpected format.


Page hijacking

Page hijacking involves compromising legitimate web pages in order to redirect users to a malicious website or an
exploit kit An exploit kit is simply a collection of exploits, which is a simple one-in-all tool for managing a variety of exploits altogether. Exploit kits act as a kind of repository, and make it easy for users without much technical knowledge to use exploi ...
via cross site scripting. A
hacker A hacker is a person skilled in information technology who uses their technical knowledge to achieve a goal or overcome an obstacle, within a computerized system by non-standard means. Though the term ''hacker'' has become associated in popul ...
may compromise a website and insert an
exploit kit An exploit kit is simply a collection of exploits, which is a simple one-in-all tool for managing a variety of exploits altogether. Exploit kits act as a kind of repository, and make it easy for users without much technical knowledge to use exploi ...
such as MPack in order to compromise legitimate users who visit the now compromised web server. One of the simplest forms of page hijacking involves altering a webpage to contain a malicious inline frame which can allow an
exploit kit An exploit kit is simply a collection of exploits, which is a simple one-in-all tool for managing a variety of exploits altogether. Exploit kits act as a kind of repository, and make it easy for users without much technical knowledge to use exploi ...
to load. Page hijacking is frequently used in tandem with a
watering hole Watering hole may refer to: * A geologic depression in which water collects and where animals come to drink * A tavern, bar, pub, or other local drinking establishment * Watering hole attack, a computer attack strategy that targets a website (the " ...
attack on corporate entities in order to compromise targets.


Calendar phishing

Calendar phishing is when phishing links are delivered via calendar invitations. Calendar invitations are sent, which by default, are automatically added to many calendars. These invitations often take the form of RSVP and other common event requests. Former Google click fraud czar
Shuman Ghosemajumder Shuman Ghosemajumder (born 1974) is a Canadian Canadians (french: Canadiens) are people identified with the country of Canada. This connection may be residential, legal, historical or cultural. For most Canadians, many (or all) of these conne ...
believes this form of fraud is increasing, and recommends changing calendar settings to not automatically add new invitations.


Techniques


Link manipulation

Most types of phishing use some form of technical deception designed to make a
link #REDIRECT Link Link or Links may refer to: Places * Link, West Virginia, an unincorporated community in the US * Link River, Klamath Falls, Oregon, US People with the name * Link (singer) (Lincoln Browder, born 1964), American R&B singer * L ...

link
in an email appear to belong to the organization the attackers are impersonating. or the use of
subdomain In the Domain Name System The Domain Name System (DNS) is the hierarchical and Decentralised system, decentralized naming system used to identify computers, Internet#Applications_and_services, services, and other resources reachable through ...

subdomain
s are common tricks used by phishers. In the following example URL, , it can appear to the untrained eye as though the URL will take the user to the ''example'' section of the ''yourbank'' website; actually this URL points to the "''yourbank''" (i.e. phishing) section of the ''example'' website. Another common trick is to make the displayed text for a link suggest a reliable destination, when the link actually goes to the phishers' site. Many desktop email clients and web browsers will show a link's target URL in the status bar while hovering the
mouse A mouse, plural mice, is a small mammal Mammals (from Latin language, Latin , 'breast') are a group of vertebrate animals constituting the class (biology), class Mammalia (), and characterized by the presence of mammary glands which ...
over it. This behavior, however, may in some circumstances be overridden by the phisher. Equivalent
mobile apps A mobile application, also referred to as a mobile app or simply an app, is a computer program or software application designed to run on a mobile device such as a smartphone, phone, tablet computer, tablet, or smartwatch, watch. Mobile applicat ...

mobile apps
generally do not have this preview feature.
Internationalized domain name An internationalized domain name (IDN) is an Internet The Internet (or internet) is the global system of interconnected computer networks that uses the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to communicate between networks and devices. It is ...
s (IDNs) can be exploited via IDN spoofing or homograph attacks, to create web addresses visually identical to a legitimate site, that lead instead to malicious version. Phishers have taken advantage of a similar risk, using open URL redirectors on the websites of trusted organizations to disguise malicious URLs with a trusted domain. Even digital certificates do not solve this problem because it is quite possible for a phisher to purchase a valid certificate and subsequently change content to spoof a genuine website, or, to host the phish site without
SSLSSL may refer to: Entertainment * RoboCup Small Size League * ''Sesame Street Live ''Sesame Street Live'' is a live touring show based on the children's television show ''Sesame Street'' produced by Feld Entertainment. History The VStar Entertain ...
at all.


Filter evasion

Phishers have sometimes used images instead of text to make it harder for anti-phishing filters to detect the text commonly used in phishing emails. In response, more sophisticated anti-phishing filters are able to recover hidden text in images using
optical character recognition Optical character recognition or optical character reader (OCR) is the electronic Electronic may refer to: *Electronics Electronics comprises the physics, engineering, technology and applications that deal with the emission, flow and control ...
(OCR).


Social engineering

Most types of phishing involve some kind of social engineering, in which users are psychologically manipulated into performing an action such as clicking a link, opening an attachment, or divulging confidential information. In addition to the obvious impersonation of a trusted entity, most phishing involves the creation of a sense of urgency - attackers claim that accounts will be shut down or seized unless the victim takes an action. This occurs most often with victims bank or insurance accounts. An alternative technique to impersonation-based phishing is the use of
fake news Fake news is false or misleading information presented as news News is information about current events. This may be provided through many different Media (communication), media: word of mouth, printing, postal systems, broadcasting, ...

fake news
articles designed to provoke outrage, causing the victim to click a link without properly considering where it could lead. These links are designed to take you to a professional looking website that looks exactly like the legitimate organization's website. Once on the attacker's website, victims can be presented with imitation "virus" notifications or redirected to pages that attempt to exploit web browser vulnerabilities to install malware.


History


1980s

A phishing technique was described in detail in a paper and presentation delivered to the 1987 International Users Group, Interex.


1990s

The term "phishing" is said to have been coined by the well known spammer and hacker in the mid-90s, Khan C. Smith. The first recorded mention of the term is found in the hacking tool
AOHell AOHell was a Windows application that was used to simplify ' cracking' using AOL. History AOHell was the first of what would become thousands of programs designed for hackers created for use with AOL. Starting around 1994 when a seventeen year ...
(according to its creator), which included a function for attempting to steal the passwords or financial details of America Online users.


Early AOL phishing

Phishing on
AOL AOL (stylized as Aol., formerly a company known as AOL Inc. and originally known as America Online) is an American web portal and online service provider based in New York City. It is a brand A brand is a name, term, design, symbol or a ...

AOL
was closely associated with the
warez Warez is a common computing and broader cultural term referring to pirated software (i.e. illegally copied, often after deactivation of anti-piracy measures) that is distributed via the Internet The Internet (or internet) is the g ...

warez
community that exchanged unlicensed software and the
black hat Black hat, blackhats, or black-hat refers to: Arts, entertainment, and media * Black hat (computer security), a hacker who violates computer security for little reason beyond maliciousness or for personal gain * Black hat, part of black and whit ...
hacking scene that perpetrated credit card fraud and other online crimes. AOL enforcement would detect words used in AOL chat rooms to suspend the accounts of individuals involved in counterfeiting software and trading stolen accounts. The term was used because "<><" is the single most common tag of HTML that was found in all chat transcripts naturally, and as such could not be detected or filtered by AOL staff. The symbol <>< was replaced for any wording that referred to stolen credit cards, accounts, or illegal activity. Since the symbol looked like a fish, and due to the popularity of
phreaking Phreaking is a slang Slang is vocabulary A vocabulary, also known as a wordstock or word-stock, is a set of familiar words within a person's language. A vocabulary, usually developed with age, serves as a useful and fundamental tool fo ...
it was adapted as "Phishing".
AOHell AOHell was a Windows application that was used to simplify ' cracking' using AOL. History AOHell was the first of what would become thousands of programs designed for hackers created for use with AOL. Starting around 1994 when a seventeen year ...
, released in early 1995, was a program designed to hack AOL users by allowing the attacker to pose as an AOL staff member, and send an instant message to a potential victim, asking him to reveal his password. In order to lure the victim into giving up sensitive information, the message might include imperatives such as "verify your account" or "confirm billing information". Once the victim had revealed the password, the attacker could access and use the victim's account for fraudulent purposes. Both phishing and warezing on AOL generally required custom-written programs, such as
AOHell AOHell was a Windows application that was used to simplify ' cracking' using AOL. History AOHell was the first of what would become thousands of programs designed for hackers created for use with AOL. Starting around 1994 when a seventeen year ...
. Phishing became so prevalent on AOL that they added a line on all instant messages stating: "no one working at AOL will ask for your password or billing information". A user using both an AIM account and an AOL account from an
ISP An Internet service provider (ISP) is an organization that provides a myriad of services for accessing, using, or participating in the Internet. Internet service providers can be organized in various forms, such as commercial, community-owned, ...

ISP
simultaneously could phish AOL members with relative impunity as internet AIM accounts could be used by non-AOL internet members and could not be actioned (i.e., reported to AOL TOS department for disciplinary action).. In late 1995, AOL crackers resorted to phishing for legitimate accounts after AOL brought in measures in late 1995 to prevent using fake, algorithmically generated credit card numbers to open accounts. Eventually, AOL's policy enforcement forced copyright infringement off AOL servers, and AOL promptly deactivates accounts involved in phishing, often before the victims could respond. The shutting down of the
warez scene The Warez scene, often referred to as The Scene, is worldwide, underground, organized network of pirate groups specializing in obtaining and illegally releasing digital media for free before their official sale date. The Scene distributes all forms ...
on AOL caused most phishers to leave the service.


2000s

* 2001 ** The first known direct attempt against a payment system affected
E-gold E-gold was a digital gold currency Digital gold currency (or DGC) is a form of electronic money (or digital currency) based on mass units of gold. It is a kind of representative money, like a US paper gold certificate at the time (from 1873 to ...
in June 2001, which was followed up by a "post-9/11 id check" shortly after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. * 2003 ** The first known phishing attack against a retail bank was reported by ''
The Banker ''The Banker'' is a British English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventuall ...
'' in September 2003. * 2004 ** It is estimated that between May 2004 and May 2005, approximately 1.2 million computer users in the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
suffered losses caused by phishing, totaling approximately . United States businesses lose an estimated per year as their clients become victims. ** Phishing is recognized as a fully organized part of the black market. Specializations emerged on a global scale that provided phishing software for payment (thereby outsourcing risk), which were assembled and implemented into phishing campaigns by organized gangs. * 2005 ** In the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...

United Kingdom
losses from web banking fraud—mostly from phishing—almost doubled to in 2005, from in 2004, while 1 in 20 computer users claimed to have lost out to phishing in 2005. * 2006 ** Almost half of phishing thefts in 2006 were committed by groups operating through the Russian Business Network based in
St. Petersburg Saint Petersburg ( rus, links=no, Санкт-Петербург, a=Ru-Sankt Peterburg Leningrad Petrograd Piter.ogg, r=Sankt-Peterburg, p=ˈsankt pʲɪtʲɪrˈburk), formerly known as Petrograd (1914–1924) and later Leningrad (1924–1991), ...

St. Petersburg
. ** Banks dispute with customers over phishing losses. The stance adopted by the UK banking body
APACS The UK Payments Administration Ltd (UKPA) is a United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a syn ...
is that "customers must also take sensible precautions ... so that they are not vulnerable to the criminal." Similarly, when the first spate of phishing attacks hit the Irish Republic's banking sector in September 2006, the
Bank of Ireland Bank of Ireland Group plc ( ga, Banc na hÉireann) is a commercial bank A bank is a financial institution Financial institutions, otherwise known as banking institutions, are corporation A corporation is an organization—us ...
initially refused to cover losses suffered by its customers, although losses to the tune of
The euro sign () is the currency sign A currency symbol or currency sign is a graphic symbol used as a shorthand for a currency's name, especially in reference to amounts of money. Usage When writing currency amounts, the location of the sym ...

€
113,000 were made good. ** Phishers are targeting the customers of banks and online payment services. Emails, supposedly from the
Internal Revenue Service The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the revenue service A revenue service, revenue agency or taxation authority is a government agency responsible for the intake of government revenue, including taxes and sometimes non-tax revenue. Depe ...
, have been used to glean sensitive data from U.S. taxpayers. While the first such examples were sent indiscriminately in the expectation that some would be received by customers of a given bank or service, recent research has shown that phishers may in principle be able to determine which banks potential victims use, and target bogus emails accordingly. **
Social networking sites A social networking service (also social networking site or social media) is an online platform which people use to build social networks or social relation In social science, a social relation or social interaction is any relationship betwe ...
are a prime target of phishing, since the personal details in such sites can be used in
identity theft Identity theft occurs when someone uses another person's personal identifying information, like their name, identifying number, or credit card number, without their permission, to commit fraud or other crimes. The term ''identity theft'' was coi ...

identity theft
; in late 2006 a
computer worm Spread of Conficker worm A computer worm is a standalone malware Malware (a portmanteau A portmanteau (, ) or portmanteau word (from "portmanteau (luggage) A portmanteau is a piece of luggage, usually made of leather and opening into t ...
took over pages on
MySpace#REDIRECT Myspace {{Redirect category shell, {{R from other capitalisation {{R from former name {{R from page move ...

MySpace
and altered links to direct surfers to websites designed to steal login details. * 2007 ** 3.6 million adults lost in the 12 months ending in August 2007. Microsoft claims these estimates are grossly exaggerated and puts the annual phishing loss in the US at . ** Attackers who broke into
TD Ameritrade TD Ameritrade is a broker A broker is a person or firm who arranges transactions between a Purchasing, buyer and a sales, seller for a commission (remuneration), commission when the deal is executed. A broker who also acts as a seller or as a ...

TD Ameritrade
's database and took 6.3 million email addresses (though they were not able to obtain
social security number In the United States, a Social Security number (SSN) is a nine-digit number issued to United States nationality law, U.S. citizens, Permanent residence (United States), permanent residents, and temporary (working) residents under section 205(c)(2) ...
s, account numbers, names, addresses, dates of birth, phone numbers and trading activity) also wanted the account usernames and passwords, so they launched a follow-up spear phishing attack. * 2008 ** The
RapidShare RapidShare was an online file hosting service that opened in 2002. In 2009, it was among the Internet's 20 most visited websites and claimed to have 10 petabytes of files uploaded by users with the ability to handle up to three million users simu ...

RapidShare
file sharing site has been targeted by phishing to obtain a premium account, which removes speed caps on downloads, auto-removal of uploads, waits on downloads, and cool down times between uploads. ** Cryptocurrencies such as
Bitcoin Bitcoin (₿) is a cryptocurrency A cryptocurrency, crypto-currency, or crypto is a collection of binary data which is designed to work as a medium of exchange. Individual coin ownership records are stored in a ledger, which is a compu ...

Bitcoin
facilitate the sale of malicious software, making transactions secure and anonymous. * 2009 ** In January 2009, a phishing attack resulted in unauthorized wire transfers of US$1.9 million through Experi-Metal's online banking accounts. ** In the third quarter of 2009, the Anti-Phishing Working Group reported receiving 115,370 phishing email reports from consumers with US and China hosting more than 25% of the phishing pages each.


2010s

* 2011 ** In March 2011, Internal RSA staff were successfully phished, leading to the master keys for all RSA SecureID security tokens being stolen, then subsequently used to break into US defense suppliers. ** Chinese phishing campaigns targeted Gmail accounts of highly ranked officials of the United States and South Korean governments and militaries, as well as Chinese political activists. * 2012 ** According to Ghosh, there were "445,004 attacks in 2012 as compared to 258,461 in 2011 and 187,203 in 2010”. * 2013 ** In August 2013, advertising service
Outbrain Outbrain is a web advertising platform that displays boxes of links, known as Chumbox, chumboxes, to pages within websites. It displays links to the sites' pages in addition to sponsored content, generating revenue from the latter. The content of O ...
suffered a spear-phishing attack and SEA placed redirects into the websites of The Washington Post, Time, and CNN. ** In October 2013, emails purporting to be from
American Express The American Express Company (Amex) is a multinational corporation, multinational financial services corporation headquartered at 200 Vesey Street in the Financial District (Manhattan), Financial District of Lower Manhattan in New York City. Th ...
were sent to an unknown number of recipients. ** In November 2013, 110 million customer and credit card records were stolen from
Target TARGET2 (Trans-European Automated Real-time Gross Settlement Express Transfer System) is the real-time gross settlementReal-time gross settlement (RTGS) systems are specialist funds transfer systems where the transfer of money Image:National ...
customers, through a phished subcontractor account. CEO and IT security staff subsequently fired. ** By December 2013, Cryptolocker ransomware had infected 250,000 computers. According to Dell SecureWorks, 0.4% or more of those infected likely agreed to the ransom demand. * 2014 ** In January 2014, the Seculert Research Lab identified a new targeted attack that used Xtreme
RAT Rats are various medium-sized, long-tailed rodent Rodents (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area a ...
. This attack used spear phishing emails to target Israeli organizations and deploy the piece of advanced malware. Fifteen machines were compromised including ones belonging to the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria. ** In August 2014, the
iCloud leaks of celebrity photos On August 31, 2014, a collection of almost 500 private pictures of various Celebrity, celebrities, mostly women, and with many Imagery of nude celebrities, containing nudity, were posted on the imageboard 4chan, and later disseminated by other u ...
was found to be based on phishing e-mails sent to the victims that looked like they came from Apple or Google, warning the victims that their accounts might be compromised and asking for their account details. ** In November 2014, phishing attacks on
ICANN The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN ) is an American multistakeholder group and nonprofit organization A nonprofit organization (NPO), also known as a non-business entity, not-for-profit organization, or ...

ICANN
gained administrative access to the Centralized Zone Data System; also gained was data about users in the system - and access to ICANN's public Governmental Advisory Committee wiki, blog, and whois information portal. * 2015 ** Charles H. Eccleston plead guilty in an attempted spear-phishing when he attempted to infect computers of 80 Department of Energy employees. **
Eliot Higgins Eliot Ward Higgins (born January 1979), who previously wrote under the pseudonym Brown Moses, is a British citizen journalist and former blog A blog (a truncation In mathematics and computer science, truncation is limiting the number of n ...
and other journalists associated with Bellingcat, a group researching the shoot down of
Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) was a scheduled passenger flight from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Kuala Lumpur that was shot down on 17 July 2014 while flying over eastern Ukraine. All 283 ...
over Ukraine, were targeted by numerous spear phishing emails. ** In August 2015, Cozy Bear was linked to a
spear-phishing Phishing is the fraudulent attempt to obtain sensitive information or data, such as usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, or other sensitive details by impersonating oneself as a trustworthy entity in a digital communication. Typically c ...
cyber-attack A cyberattack is any offensive maneuver that targets computer information systems, computer networks, infrastructures, or personal computer devices. An attacker is a person or process that attempts to access data, functions, or other restricted ...
against the
Pentagon In geometry, a pentagon (from the Greek language, Greek πέντε ''pente'' meaning ''five'' and γωνία ''gonia'' meaning ''angle'') is any five-sided polygon or 5-gon. The sum of the internal angles in a simple polygon, simple pentagon is ...
email upThe email_address.html"_;"title="at_sign,_a_part_of_every_SMTP_email_address">at_sign,_a_part_of_every_SMTP_email_address Electronic_mail_(email_or_e-mail)_is_a_method_of_exchanging_messages_("mail")_between_people_using_electronic_dev ...

email
system causing the shut down of the entire Joint Staff unclassified email system and Internet access during the investigation. ** In August 2015, Fancy Bear used a zero-day exploit of
Java Java ( id, Jawa, ; jv, ꦗꦮ; su, ) is one of the Greater Sunda Islands in Indonesia. It is bordered by the Indian Ocean to the south and the Java Sea to the north. With a population of 147.7 million people, Java is the world's List of ...
, in a spear phishing attack spoofing the
Electronic Frontier Foundation The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is an international non-profit group based in . The foundation was formed on 10 July 1990 by , and to promote . The EFF provides funds for legal defense in court, presents ' briefs, defends individual ...
and launching attacks on the
White House The White House is the official residence and workplace of the president of the United States. It is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest, Washington, D.C., NW in Washington, D.C., and has been the residence of every U.S. preside ...

White House
and
NATO The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO, ; french: Organisation du traité de l'Atlantique nord, ), also called the North Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental military alliance A military alliance is a formal agreement betwe ...
. * 2016 * In February, Austrian aerospace firm FACC AG was defrauded of 42 million euros ($47 million) through a BEC attack - and subsequently fired both the CFO and CEO. ** Fancy Bear carried out spear phishing attacks on email addresses associated with the Democratic National Committee in the first quarter of 2016. **
The Wichita Eagle ''The Wichita Eagle'' is a daily newspaper published in Wichita, Kansas, United States. It is owned by The McClatchy Company and is the largest newspaper in Wichita and the surrounding area. History Origins In 1870, ''The Vidette'' was the fi ...
reported " KU employees fall victim to phishing scam, lose paychecks" **
Fancy Bear Fancy Bear (also known as APT28 (by Mandiant), Pawn Storm, Sofacy Group (by Kaspersky), Sednit, Tsar Team (by FireEye FireEye is a publicly traded cybersecurity company headquartered in Milpitas, California Milpitas () is a city in Santa Cl ...
is suspected to be behind a spear phishing attack in August 2016 on members of the
Bundestag The Bundestag (, "Federal diet (assembly), Diet") is the Germany, German Federalism, federal parliament. It is the only body that is directly elected by the German people on the federal level. It can be compared to a lower house similar to the ...

Bundestag
and multiple political parties such as Linken-faction leader
Sahra Wagenknecht Sahra Wagenknecht (born Sarah Wagenknecht; ; born 16 July 1969) is a German politician, economist, author and publicist. Since 2009, she has been a member of the Bundestag The Bundestag (, "Federal Diet Diet may refer to: Food * Diet (nutrit ...
,
Junge Union The Junge Union Deutschlands (''Young Union of Germany'') or JU is the joint youth organisation of the two conservative German political parties A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a country's elect ...
and the
CDU CDU may refer to: Education * Catholic Distance University, a worldwide Catholic university based in Hamilton, Virginia, U.S offering theological instruction and degrees via Internet * Cebu Doctors' University, a medical university in the Phili ...
of
Saarland The Saarland ( , , ; french: Sarre ) is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper) ...
. ** In August 2016, the
World Anti-Doping Agency The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA; french: Agence mondiale antidopage, AMA) is a foundation initiated by the International Olympic Committee The International Olympic Committee (IOC; french: Comité international olympique, CIO) is a non ...
reported the receipt of phishing emails sent to users of its database claiming to be official WADA, but consistent with the Russian hacking group Fancy Bear. According to WADA, some of the data the hackers released had been forged. ** Within hours of the 2016 U.S. election results, Russian hackers sent emails from spoofed
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Harvard University
email addresses, using techniques similar to phishing to publish
fake news Fake news is false or misleading information presented as news News is information about current events. This may be provided through many different Media (communication), media: word of mouth, printing, postal systems, broadcasting, ...
targeted at ordinary American voters. * 2017 ** In 2017, 76% of organizations experienced phishing attacks. Nearly half of information security professionals surveyed said that the rate of attacks increased from 2016. ** In the first half of 2017 businesses and residents of Qatar were hit with more than 93,570 phishing events in a three-month span. ** A phishing email to Google and Facebook users successfully induced employees into wiring money – to the extent of US$100 million – to overseas bank accounts under the control of a hacker. He has since been arrested by the US Department of Justice. ** In August 2017, customers of Amazon faced the Amazon Prime Day phishing attack, when hackers sent out seemingly legitimate deals to customers of Amazon. When Amazon's customers attempted to make purchases using the "deals", the transaction would not be completed, prompting the retailer's customers to input data that could be compromised and stolen. * 2018 ** In 2018, the company block.one, which developed the EOS.IO blockchain, was attacked by a phishing group who sent phishing emails to all customers, aimed at intercepting the user's cryptocurrency wallet key; and a later attack targeted airdrop tokens.


2020s

* 2020 ** On July 15, 2020,
Twitter Twitter is an American microblogging Microblogging is an online Broadcasting, broadcast medium that exists as a specific form of blogging. A micro-blog differs from a traditional blog in that its content is typically smaller in both actu ...

Twitter
suffered a breach that combined elements of
Social engineering (security) In the context of information security #REDIRECT Information security Information security, sometimes shortened to infosec, is the practice of protecting information by mitigating information risks. It is part of Risk management information sy ...
and phishing. A 17-year old hacker and accomplices setup a fake website resembling Twitter's internal VPN provider used by employees working from home. Individuals posing as helpdesk staff called multiple Twitter employees, directing them to submit their credentials to the fake VPN website. Using the details supplied by the unknowing employees, they were then able to seize control of several high profile user accounts, including
Barack Obama Barack Hussein Obama II ( ; born August 4, 1961) is an American politician and attorney who served as the 44th president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government ...

Barack Obama
,
Elon Musk Elon Reeve Musk (; born June 28, 1971) is an entrepreneur and business magnate A business magnate is someone who has achieved great success and enormous wealth through the ownership of multiple lines of enterprise. The term characteris ...

Elon Musk
,
Joe Biden Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. ( ; born November 20, 1942) is an American politician who is the 46th and current president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of th ...

Joe Biden
and
Apple Inc. Apple Inc. is an American multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multiple countries * Multinational force, a military body from multiple countries * Multinational state, a ...
's company account. The hackers sent messages to Twitter followers soliciting
Bitcoin Bitcoin (₿) is a cryptocurrency A cryptocurrency, crypto-currency, or crypto is a collection of binary data which is designed to work as a medium of exchange. Individual coin ownership records are stored in a ledger, which is a compu ...

Bitcoin
promising double the transaction value in return, collecting some $117,000 in the first 3 hours of the ruse.


Anti-phishing

There are anti-phishing websites which publish exact messages that have been recently circulating the internet, such as FraudWatch International and Millersmiles. Such sites often provide specific details about the particular messages. As recently as 2007, the adoption of anti-phishing strategies by businesses needing to protect personal and financial information was low. Now there are several different techniques to combat phishing, including legislation and technology created specifically to protect against phishing. These techniques include steps that can be taken by individuals, as well as by organizations. Phone, web site, and email phishing can now be reported to authorities, as described
below Below may refer to: *Earth *Ground (disambiguation) *Soil *Floor *Bottom (disambiguation) *Less than *Temperatures below freezing *Hell or underworld People with the surname *Fred Below (1926–1988), American blues drummer *Fritz von Below (1853 ...
.


User training

People can be trained to recognize phishing attempts, and to deal with them through a variety of approaches. Such education can be effective, especially where training emphasizes conceptual knowledge and provides direct feedback. Therefore, an essential part of any organization or institutions anti-phishing strategy is to actively educate its users so that they can identify phishing scams without hesitation and act accordingly. Although there is currently a lack of data and recorded history that shows educational guidance and other information-based interventions successfully reduce susceptibility to phishing, large amounts of information regarding the phishing threat are available on the Internet. Many organizations run regular simulated phishing campaigns targeting their staff to measure the effectiveness of their training. For example, this often occurs in the healthcare industry due to the fact that healthcare data has significant value as a potential target for hackers. In a recent study done by the National Library of Medicine an assessment was performed as part of cybersecurity activity during a designated test period using multiple credential harvesting approaches through staff email. During the 1-month testing period, the organization received 858 200 emails: 139 400 (16%) marketing, 18 871 (2%) identified as potential threats. This is just one example of the many steps being taken to combat phishing within healthcare. People can take steps to avoid phishing attempts by slightly modifying their browsing habits. When contacted about an account needing to be "verified" (or any other topic used by phishers), it is a sensible precaution to contact the company from which the email apparently originates to check that the email is legitimate. Alternatively, the address that the individual knows is the company's genuine website can be typed into the address bar of the browser, rather than trusting any
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hyperlink
s in the suspected phishing message. Nearly all legitimate e-mail messages from companies to their customers contain an item of information that is not readily available to phishers. Some companies, for example
PayPal PayPal Holdings, Inc. is an American multinational financial technology company operating an online payments system in the majority of countries that support online money transfers, and serves as an electronic alternative to traditional pape ...

PayPal
, always address their customers by their username in emails, so if an email addresses the recipient in a generic fashion ("''Dear PayPal customer''") it is likely to be an attempt at phishing. Furthermore, PayPal offers various methods to determine spoof emails and advises users to forward suspicious emails to their spoof@PayPal.com domain to investigate and warn other customers. However it is unsafe to assume that the presence of personal information alone guarantees that a message is legitimate, and some studies have shown that the presence of personal information does not significantly affect the success rate of phishing attacks; which suggests that most people do not pay attention to such details. Emails from banks and credit card companies often include partial account numbers. However, recent research has shown that the public do not typically distinguish between the first few digits and the last few digits of an account number—a significant problem since the first few digits are often the same for all clients of a financial institution. The Anti-Phishing Working Group, who's one of the largest anti-phishing organizations in the world, produces regular report on trends in phishing attacks. Google posted a video demonstrating how to identify and protect yourself from Phishing scams.


Technical approaches

A wide range of technical approaches are available to prevent phishing attacks reaching users or to prevent them from successfully capturing sensitive information.


Filtering out phishing mail

Specialized spam filters can reduce the number of phishing emails that reach their addressees' inboxes. These filters use a number of techniques including
machine learning Machine learning (ML) is the study of computer algorithms that can improve automatically through experience and by the use of data. It is seen as a part of artificial intelligence. Machine learning algorithms build a model based on sample data ...

machine learning
and
natural language processing Natural language processing (NLP) is a subfield of , , and concerned with the interactions between computers and human language, in particular how to program computers to process and analyze large amounts of data. The goal is a computer capab ...
approaches to classify phishing emails, and reject email with forged addresses.


Browsers alerting users to fraudulent websites

Another popular approach to fighting phishing is to maintain a list of known phishing sites and to check websites against the list. One such service is the service. Web browsers such as
Google Chrome Google Chrome is a cross-platform web browser developed by Google. It was first released in 2008 for Microsoft Windows, built with free software components from Apple WebKit and Mozilla Firefox. It was later ported to Linux, macOS, iOS, and An ...

Google Chrome
,
Internet Explorer Internet Explorer (formerly Microsoft Internet Explorer and Windows Internet Explorer, (from August 16, 1995 to March 30, 2021) commonly abbreviated IE or MSIE) is a discontinued series of graphical user interface, graphical web browsers develo ...
7,
Mozilla Firefox Mozilla Firefox or simply Firefox is a free and open-source Free and open-source software (FOSS) is software that is both free software and open-source software where anyone is free software license, freely licensed to use, copy, study, ...

Mozilla Firefox
2.0,
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3.2, and
Opera Opera is a form of theatre Theatre or theater is a collaborative form of performing art that uses live performers, usually actor, actors or actresses, to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a s ...
all contain this type of anti-phishing measure.
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used
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Google
anti-phishing software. Opera 9.1 uses live blacklists from
Phishtank PhishTank is an Anti-phishing software, anti-phishing site. PhishTank was launched in October 2006 by entrepreneur David Ulevitch as an offshoot of OpenDNS. The company offers a community-based phish verification system where users submit suspected ...
, cyscon and GeoTrust, as well as live whitelists from GeoTrust. Some implementations of this approach send the visited URLs to a central service to be checked, which has raised concerns about privacy. According to a report by Mozilla in late 2006, Firefox 2 was found to be more effective than Internet Explorer 7 at detecting fraudulent sites in a study by an independent software testing company. An approach introduced in mid-2006 involves switching to a special DNS service that filters out known phishing domains: this will work with any browser, and is similar in principle to using a hosts file to block web adverts. To mitigate the problem of phishing sites impersonating a victim site by embedding its images (such as logos), several site owners have altered the images to send a message to the visitor that a site may be fraudulent. The image may be moved to a new filename and the original permanently replaced, or a server can detect that the image was not requested as part of normal browsing, and instead send a warning image.


Augmenting password logins

The Bank of America website is one of several that asks users to select a personal image (marketed as SiteKey) and displays this user-selected image with any forms that request a password. Users of the bank's online services are instructed to enter a password only when they see the image they selected. However, several studies suggest that few users refrain from entering their passwords when images are absent. In addition, this feature (like other forms of two-factor authentication) is susceptible to other attacks, such as those suffered by Scandinavian bank Nordea in late 2005, and Citibank in 2006. A similar system, in which an automatically generated "Identity Cue" consisting of a colored word within a colored box is displayed to each website user, is in use at other financial institutions. Security skins are a related technique that involves overlaying a user-selected image onto the login form as a visual cue that the form is legitimate. Unlike the website-based image schemes, however, the image itself is shared only between the user and the browser, and not between the user and the website. The scheme also relies on a mutual authentication protocol, which makes it less vulnerable to attacks that affect user-only authentication schemes. Still another technique relies on a dynamic grid of images that is different for each login attempt. The user must identify the pictures that fit their pre-chosen categories (such as dogs, cars and flowers). Only after they have correctly identified the pictures that fit their categories are they allowed to enter their alphanumeric password to complete the login. Unlike the static images used on the Bank of America website, a dynamic image-based authentication method creates a one-time passcode for the login, requires active participation from the user, and is very difficult for a phishing website to correctly replicate because it would need to display a different grid of randomly generated images that includes the user's secret categories.


Monitoring and takedown

Several companies offer banks and other organizations likely to suffer from phishing scams round-the-clock services to monitor, analyze and assist in shutting down phishing websites. Automated detection of phishing content is still below accepted levels for direct action, with content-based analysis reaching between 80% and 90% of success so most of the tools include manual steps to certify the detection and authorize the response. Individuals can contribute by reporting phishing to both volunteer and industry groups, such as cyscon or PhishTank. Phishing web pages and emails can be reported to Google.


Transaction verification and signing

Solutions have also emerged using the mobile phone (smartphone) as a second channel for verification and authorization of banking transactions.


Multi-factor authentication

Organizations can implement two factor or multi-factor authentication (MFA), which requires a user to use at least 2 factors when logging in. (For example, a user must both present a smart card and a password). This mitigates some risk, in the event of a successful phishing attack, the stolen password on its own cannot be reused to further breach the protected system. However, there are several attack methods which can defeat many of the typical systems. MFA schemes such as WebAuthn address this issue by design.


Email content redaction

Organizations that prioritize security over convenience can require users of its computers to use an email client that redacts URLs from email messages, thus making it impossible for the reader of the email to click on a link, or even copy a URL. While this may result in an inconvenience, it does almost completely eliminate email phishing attacks.


Limitations of technical responses

An article in ''Forbes'' in August 2014 argues that the reason phishing problems persist even after a decade of anti-phishing technologies being sold is that phishing is "a technological medium to exploit human weaknesses" and that technology cannot fully compensate for human weaknesses.


Legal responses

On January 26, 2004, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission filed the first lawsuit against a suspected phisher. The defendant, a Californian teenager, allegedly created a webpage designed to look like the America Online website, and used it to steal credit card information. Other countries have followed this lead by tracing and arresting phishers. A phishing kingpin, Valdir Paulo de Almeida, was arrested in Brazil for leading one of the largest phishing criminal organization, crime rings, which in two years stole between and . UK authorities jailed two men in June 2005 for their role in a phishing scam, in a case connected to the United States Secret Service, U.S. Secret Service Operation Firewall, which targeted notorious "carder" websites. In 2006 eight people were arrested by Japanese police on suspicion of phishing fraud by creating bogus Yahoo Japan Web sites, netting themselves (). The arrests continued in 2006 with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI Operation Cardkeeper detaining a gang of sixteen in the U.S. and Europe. In the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
, United States Senate, Senator Patrick Leahy introduced the ''Anti-Phishing Act of 2005'' in United States Congress, Congress on March 1, 2005. This Bill (proposed law), bill, if it had been enacted into law, would have subjected criminals who created fake web sites and sent bogus emails in order to defraud consumers to fines of up to and prison terms of up to five years. The UK strengthened its legal arsenal against phishing with the Fraud Act 2006, which introduces a general offence of fraud that can carry up to a ten-year prison sentence, and prohibits the development or possession of phishing kits with intent to commit fraud. Companies have also joined the effort to crack down on phishing. On March 31, 2005, Microsoft filed 117 federal lawsuits in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. The lawsuits accuse "John Doe" defendants of obtaining passwords and confidential information. March 2005 also saw a partnership between Microsoft and the Government of Australia, Australian government teaching law enforcement officials how to combat various cyber crimes, including phishing. Microsoft announced a planned further 100 lawsuits outside the U.S. in March 2006, followed by the commencement, as of November 2006, of 129 lawsuits mixing criminal and civil actions.
AOL AOL (stylized as Aol., formerly a company known as AOL Inc. and originally known as America Online) is an American web portal and online service provider based in New York City. It is a brand A brand is a name, term, design, symbol or a ...

AOL
reinforced its efforts against phishing in early 2006 with three lawsuits seeking a total of under the 2005 amendments to the Virginia Computer Crimes Act, and Earthlink has joined in by helping to identify six men subsequently charged with phishing fraud in Connecticut. In January 2007, Jeffrey Brett Goodin of California became the first defendant convicted by a jury under the provisions of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. He was found guilty of sending thousands of emails to America Online users, while posing as AOL's billing department, which prompted customers to submit personal and credit card information. Facing a possible 101 years in prison for the CAN-SPAM violation and ten other counts including wire fraud, the unauthorized use of credit cards, and the misuse of AOL's trademark, he was sentenced to serve 70 months. Goodin had been in custody since failing to appear for an earlier court hearing and began serving his prison term immediately.


See also

* * * * * * * * * , many abusable by phishing * Link farm * Mousetrapping * TrustRank * Clickjacking


References


External links


Anti-Phishing Working Group

Center for Identity Management and Information Protection
– Utica College
Plugging the "phishing" hole: legislation versus technology
– ''Duke University School of Law, Duke Law & Technology Review''
Example of a Phishing Attempt with Screenshots and Explanations
– StrategicRevenue.com
A Profitless Endeavor: Phishing as Tragedy of the Commons
– Microsoft Corporation
Database for information on phishing sites reported by the public
– PhishTank
The Impact of Incentives on Notice and Take-down
− Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge (PDF, 344 kB) {{Authority control Internet terminology World Wide Web Organized crime activity Social engineering (computer security) Spamming Cybercrime Confidence tricks Identity theft Types of cyberattacks Deception Fraud