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New research reveals evolving tactics attackers use to trick victims

Cloud-enabled security solutions provider Barracuda has released a new report with key findings about the ways cybercriminals are adapting quickly to current events and new tactics.

The latest report, titled Spear Phishing: Top Threats and Trends Vol. 5 - Best practices to defend against evolving attacks, reveals new details about these highly targeted threats, including the latest tactics used by cybercriminals and the steps you can take to defend business.

The report takes an in-depth look at how attackers are quickly adapting to current events and using new tricks to successfully execute attacks spear phishing, business email compromise, pandemic-related scams, and other types. It also tackles why organisations need to invest in protection against lateral phishing and other internally-launched attacks from compromised accounts, including solutions that use artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Attack trends and beyond
Barracudas research reveals key takeaways about how these targeted attacks are evolving and the approaches cybercriminals are using to maximise their impact.

Business email compromise (BEC) makes up 12% of the spear-phishing
attacks analyssed, an increase from just 7% in 2019.

  • 72% of COVID-19-related attacks are scamming. In comparison, 36% of overall attacks are scamming. Attackers prefer to use COVID-19 in their less targeted scamming attacks that focus on fake cures and donations.
  • 13% of all spear-phishing attacks come from internally compromised accounts, so organisations need to invest in protecting their internal email traffic as much as they do in protecting from external senders.
  • 71% of spear-phishing attacks include malicious URLs, but only 30% of BEC attacks included a link. Hackers using BEC want to establish trust with their victim and expect a reply to their email, and the lack of a URL makes it harder to detect the attack.
  • Cybercriminals adapt very quickly when they find a new tactic or current event that they can exploit, as their response to the COVID-19 pandemic proved only too well, said Don MacLennan, SVP, Engineering & Product Management, Email Protection, Barracuda. Staying aware of the way spear-phishing tactics are evolving will help organisations take the proper precautions to defend against these highly targeted attacks and avoid falling victim to scammers latest tricks.


Protect your business from sophisticated, targeted and costly spear-phishing attacks.

See the revealing new details about spear-phishing attacks, including the latest tactics used by cybercriminals to bypass traditional email security and the top best practices to defend your business:

  • How brand impersonation is being used in more than 80% of spear-phishing attacks, which brands are the most impersonated and which employees are most targeted.
  • Why sextortion scams, a form of blackmail that makes up 10% of all spear-phishing attacks, continue to increase in popularity, which industries are most targeted and which types of approaches are being used to launch attacks.
  • Which 10 popular domains are used to launch the majority of business email compromise attacks, which subject lines are the most popular and how scammers customize them to target victims in specific industries.