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14 Common Types of Phishing Attacks That Law Firms Need to Prevent

Companies of all sizes face significant threats to their business in terms of cybersecurity. No matter your industry or size of your organization, threats are everywhere, and the level of sophistication of cybersecurity threats is increasing as cybercriminals develop new tactics. Law firms, in particular, have to maintain strict data security to meet ethical guidelines and attract security-conscious clientele.

Data breaches happen in all kinds of ways, so it’s vital for law firms to stay vigilant against all cyber attack methods. One of the most common types is phishing.

What Is Phishing?

Simply put, phishing is a type of cyberattack in which criminals attempt to steal valuable information by sending fraudulent messages via email or other channels. Typically, criminals will pretend to be a trusted person trying to manipulate their targets into providing access to sensitive information or downloading something malicious to gain access to a network.

Phishing has been a common attack method since the 1990s, when users would create spoofed email accounts to contact people requesting information or providing a seemingly innocent file to download.

One of the first recorded examples of phishing occurred in the mid-90s in the form of a Windows application referred to as AOHell. This system was designed for hackers to use to target users on AOL. It provided several phishing tools that enabled hackers to create fake accounts, steal passwords, and implement “mail bombing” (a script that rapidly flooded a user’s inbox until it was full), among various other attacks.

Fast forward a few decades and phishing has become incredibly sophisticated and, in turn, harder for law firms to stay proactive in defending against. In fact, about 25 percent of all data breaches involve some form of phishing, and a staggering 82 percent involve some human element, such as social attacks.

As you can imagine, law firms need to stay informed about all the various types of phishing attacks (among other cybersecurity vulnerabilities) so their team can stay alert and know when to report suspicious activity.

14 Types of Phishing Attacks Law Firms Need to Know

It’s getting more difficult for even savvy users to identify phishing attempts. Most common attacks involve some form of social engineering, where people are deceived into trusting the phisher to provide sensitive information, which is then used for fraudulent purposes.

Here are the most common kinds of phishing attacks you need your legal professionals to know so they can identify a scam and prevent your firm from experiencing a data breach:

Phishing Attack #1: Email Phishing

With email phishing, cybercriminals send an email claiming to be a trusted person or company. This could be someone you do business with or even your IT department telling you to follow a link and log in to verify your account information.

Of course, that link is not legitimate, so it may send trusting people to a fraudulent website so they can submit sensitive login information. That login data will then be used by cybercriminals to infiltrate your network.

Phishing Attack #2: HTTPS Phishing

HTTPS phishing is similar to regular email phishing, but it occurs when the sender uses a secure website for the purpose of deceiving you into thinking the message is legitimate. Since HTTPS websites use an encrypted connection, it can be difficult to tell if it’s a phishing email or not.

Phishing Attack #3: Spear Phishing

Spear phishing is a more targeted form of email phishing that uses social engineering to target particular individuals or groups. Cybercriminals will use information that’s available to the public to target specific people.

Using this information, the attacker can seem more trustworthy to the victim. For example, they may use design elements common to emails from a particular person or organization (like logos, fonts, etc.) to more accurately mimic a legitimate sender. This is why this kind of attack is often successful.

Phishing Attack #4: Vishing

Vishing, also known as voice phishing or phone phishing, is a type of phishing attack in which a cybercriminal contacts the victim via phone call. Often, the attacker presents a request with a sense of urgency.

A common example is attackers presenting themselves as IRS agents during the tax season. The stakes are high, so the victim might feel panicked and provide personal information immediately without considering that the call could be fraudulent.

Phishing Attack #5: Smishing

Smishing involves text messaging. Cybercriminals target users to coerce them into providing sensitive information or making a purchase. 

For example, attackers may present themselves as a CEO or senior level leader in an organization texting a lower level employee, making an urgent request for the victim to purchase gift cards for a company function or to wire money to an important client’s account.

Phishing Attack #6: Mobile Phishing

Mobile phishing uses mobile apps to dupe victims into providing sensitive information or making a purchase. These apps are designed to look like legitimate apps and can be hard to detect as fraudulent.

Malicious apps may also hide code that infects the mobile device—giving the attacker remote access or control of the device. This is often used as part of a larger cyberattack strategy.

Phishing Attack #7: Angler Phishing

Angler phishing involves asking trick questions, which are used to gain access to someone’s account. These types of phishing attacks often take the form of a customer support chat or conversation, where you’re asked to verify your account information.

This type of attack can be sent in a variety of communication channels, most notably social media.

Phishing Attack #8: Pharming

Pharming redirects users to malicious websites when they try to visit a legitimate one. Attackers use a type of malware known as a DNS poisoning, which manipulates the domain name system settings on a computer without a user’s knowledge.

So a user will type the domain in their browser, which will then redirect them to the fraudulent website that may appear as the real one.

Phishing Attack #9: Pop-Up Phishing

Pop-up phishing attackers use deceptive pop-up windows to dupe users into taking a specific action—such as downloading malware or entering their login information. While many people use pop-up blockers nowadays, modern websites now allow people to enable a web browser’s notification feature. This is commonly used for legitimate websites to present important notifications, like when a service is being updated or when a system experiences an outage.

However, cybercriminals are now creating fake notification enablement pop-ups. So if a person at your law firm is visiting a reliable website and they see a pop-up asking if they want to enable notifications, by selecting “allow,” the user could enable the domain to install malicious code.

Phishing Attack #10: Clone Phishing

Clone phishing is a type of phishing attack that involves the creation of fake websites or emails that are very similar to legitimate ones in order to deceive users. Criminals often conduct research on specific organizations to see which services and software tools they use regularly, then they create duplicate domains or emails that mimic the legitimate source.

For example, your law firm may use an electronic document management program often to process approvals and esignatures. Attackers may target frequent users like paralegals with a fake email that appears to be a legitimate request from your electronic document management program to capture sensitive information.

This approach is often paired with spear phishing to increase the likelihood of success by making both the website and communications with targets look legitimate.

Phishing Attack #11: Watering Hole Phishing

Again, criminals are incredibly savvy. For this kind of attack, they first study websites that your team frequently visits, and then they infect the IP address with malicious downloads.

And if your team commonly visits these sites, like legal industry publications or other research resources, they will not think twice about following a simple prompt presented as what appears to be a legitimate download.

Phishing Attack #12: Search Engine Phishing

If your team is researching specific products, cybercriminals can go through great lengths to develop fake products that target curious users. For example, if your team is assessing a new case management software, they might find a compelling product that turns out to be fake. Attackers then collect your information during the checkout process. 

Phishing Attack #13: Whaling

Whaling targets high-level executives within your organization. Similar to phishing attacks that target the general public, whaling attacks use different types of phishing emails, like urgent requests or fake invoices, to deceive specific leaders into providing sensitive business information. After all, a C-suite leader makes a great target given the level of access they have.

Attackers often use social engineering tactics with personalized messaging that they find while they research victims.

Phishing Attack #14: Man-in-the-Middle Attacks

Man-in-the-middle attacks are often used to intercept, modify, or block data being transmitted between two parties. For example, your team may be sharing case management information that can be intercepted by cybercriminals.

How Cybersecurity Training Helps Stop Phishing Attacks

The most important consideration for law firms to stay vigilant against these cyberattacks is raising awareness. Your team needs to know all the potential attack channels and the signs that suggest suspicious activity.

One of the most effective ways to prepare your law firm is through cybersecurity training. This can help your team learn how to identify phishing attacks, recognize the types of phishing emails and websites that are circulating, and implement practices for avoiding them.

Your cybersecurity training program should be continuous, with interactive sessions, comprehensive documentation about your data protection policy, and follow-ups to ensure each team member understands the implications and costs of a data breach. Consider using phishing tests to gauge your team’s level of understanding and to correct any issues.

Furthermore, implementing multi-factor authentication across all systems can also significantly improve your cybersecurity efforts.

Implementing Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) to Thwart Phishing

Most forms of phishing attacks rely on social engineering. People within your law firm would need to provide personal information, like their password, to cybercriminals in order for your network to be breached. 

Fortunately, multi-factor authentication can help stop attackers from accessing your data. MFA adds a vital layer of security by requesting additional factors to permit users access. 

For example, you might require users to provide biometric data (e.g., facial recognition or fingerprints), additional information (e.g., codes sent to private channels like a phone number), and/or even a physical object (such as key fobs or USB drives with built-in authentication tokens) to gain access to specific software and databases.

MFA is an essential component of your cybersecurity strategy. With the right authentication methods in place, you can stop criminals in their tracks even if they steal someone’s login credentials.

Get Help with Network Setup and Security Now!

Lawyers using multi-factor authentication are proactive in defending against multiple kinds of phishing attacks. But phishing attempts are just one of several threats that can lead to costly data breaches, which may undermine your credibility and put your team and your clients at risk. 

Converged Technology Group specializes in helping your team roll out MFA and various other IT efforts to help protect your law firm from cybercriminals. Our IT professionals provide IT managed services to deploy a comprehensive approach to securing your data. 

We specialize in servicing law firms like yours in the Manhattan, Nassau County, and Suffolk County areas in New York. Contact us now to schedule a free IT assessment so we can outline a customized solution for your cybersecurity needs.

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