September 26

Spear Phishing: What Is It And Why Businesses Should Pay Attention.

What is Spear Phishing?

Spear-phishing is a targeted attempt by hackers to steal sensitive information such as account credentials or financial information from a specific victim – CEO, Business Owner, High Net-Worth Individuals.

Often referred to as ‘whales’ by the bad actors ‘hackers’ – the most common goals of a spear-phishing campaign is to:

  • steal credentials, 
  • gain company data access, 
  • financial gain or 
  • malicious reasons. 

It’s also likely that hackers may choose to penetrate a target user’s computer to install malware, ahead of a ransom attack.

Spear phishing is the most successful form of acquiring confidential information on the internet, accounting for 91% of attacks.

Spear phishing vs Phishing

Phishing may sound synonymous with spear-phishing but there’s a huge difference between the two most common forms of cyber threats. 

Phishing focuses on quantity by using a generic message or email to lure as many victims as possible in one phishing campaign. 

Spear Phishing leans more on the quality of a cyber attack. It focuses on a personalised message addressing an individual target, making it more challenging and tricky for the recipient to identify any suspicious factor in the email.

In short, the differences between the two are:

Spear Phishing:

  • Favors quality
  • Attacks a specific target individual, organisation, or business
  • Uses a personalised message to confuse the recipient regarding its authenticity


  • Favors quantity
  • Attacks many victims at once using a single campaign
  • Uses generic message templates

How Spear Phishing Works

In 2020, spear-phishing was responsible for 35% of attacks organisations experienced. The most important thing to know about spear phishing is how it works. It looks simple yet, the dangers it poses can be devastating for anyone.

In spear phishing, an email arrives pretending to be from a trustworthy source. The email address used is almost the same as the “authentic” email address of the organisation or person they’re pretending to be. 

Spear Phishing leverages your trusted sources and business relationships. 

Bad actors may imitate an employee, a supplier, a vendor, or other external trusted sources.

A spear phishing email typically has a compelling message to distract the sender from checking the authenticity of the sender and the links it contains. 

Sometimes, they even pretend to be from non-profit organisations. For example, bad actors leveraged spear-phishing to send emails that were disguised to be from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The email structure is more challenging to identify than a generic phishing campaign. 

Spear phishing campaigns often contain the correct information, good language, and sensible explanations as to why they need access to confidential and sensitive data. 

Once the targeted individual falls for it and finally clicks on the attachment or link, malware is typically installed on the computer or device. 

Another potential result from clicking is it directs the victim to a bogus website. The bogus website will ask the victim to provide information like passwords, security pins, access codes, account numbers, and other sensitive information (patient records, legal documents, etc).

How Spear Phishing Endangers Businesses

The most common cause of a cyber attack is human error.

Employees and business owners are quite often busy and stressed from the day-to-day tasks they face. Spear phishing attacks, when deployed, can cause severe damage to a business in very unpleasant ways.

Spear phishing attacks target a specific victim – CEO, Business Owner, High Net-Worth Individuals across all industries – healthcare, industrial and engineering, information technology, and even small-scale industries. 

Cybercriminals exploit the data they steal for illicit activities – including putting your stolen data and business credentials up for sale on the dark web. 

A data or credential breach triggered by a spear phishing attack can cripple a business. Furthermore, any malware installed upon clicking the link or attachment from a spear-phishing attack may also disrupt business operations causing more financial loss to businesses – potentially for years to come. 

A great example is – The Attack That Broke Twitter. This Phone spear phishing technique allowed hackers to take control of the accounts of Joe Biden, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and dozens of others is still in use against a broad array of victims.

A spear phishing attack can ruin your brand reputation. 

What is your brand reputation worth? 

It takes years of hard work, and investments to build a brand reputation and for most, it’s the heart of a business’s success. Damaged due to spear phishing or any other cyberattack that occurs can be catastrophic for business owners. 

Cyberattacks by way of spear phishing can cost you loyal customers’ confidence, future business, tenders – crushing an enterprise’s chances to grow and strive. An attack can drown a business and it might be extremely difficult to rise above it.

CRINTEL helps SMEs deal with the dangers of Spear Phishing

CRINTEL – Cyber Risk Intelligence is a Private Intelligence Agency (PIA) that specialises in Cyber Threat and Risk Intelligence originating from the Dark Web. To support your cyber security, CRINTEL provides intelligence from multiple dark web monitoring sources.

We work as a co-managed solution to support and provide your internal team and external IT cybersecurity advisors with 24/7 live monitoring of the dark web, where leaked credentials from a phishing attack is.

Our Threat Intelligence Units (TIUs) monitor your business domain, email addresses and key suppliers – looking for exposed credentials that we can find about your business and suppliers – that are up for sale on the dark web. 

Our enterprise-level cyber intelligence systems, used by Fortune 500 companies, are supported by human operatives and collect live dynamic data that is scanned or sourced from live dark web forums leveraging multiple sources in real-time 24/7, 365 days per year.

Are your business credentials up for sale on the dark web? 

Dark Web Monitoring

Get started with Crintel FREE today! Request a complimentary Cyber Intelligence Report here.

NOTE: As this article is sourced from one or more third parties we cannot guarantee the information is correct and suggest if you are relying on this information, for whatever reason, then you should first do your own research. Click here to learn more about how CRINTEL can help your business.


Cyber Risk Intelligence, Cyber Threat Intelligence, Cyber Threats, Dark Web, Hackers, phishing, Spear phishing

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