2022 email threats

Your organization is no doubt familiar with the numerous email threats that have been targeting IT professionals over the last decade. You’ve probably also grown accustomed to having a solid understanding of these types of threats.

The threat landscape is constantly evolving, however. Your organization has likely either seen few or repeat offenders in the context of their systems.

This post will serve as a glance into some of the latest email threats you need to be aware of in 2022.

1. Ransomware

Ransomware can often be deployed via email making it one of the potential email threats. Ransomware is the act of blocking access to a victim’s computer system by encrypting the victim’s data and demanding payment in return for the decryption key. If you don’t pay up the ransom within the hours allotted by the attacker, you won’t be able to get back any files that were on your system before the attack took place. Most ransomware encrypts files with the .exe extension, though other types of ransomware may also target certain file types.

a. Ransomware-as-a-Service

Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) is a movement among cybercriminals to sell ransomware and other malware tools, such as banking Trojans, in the cloud.

RaaS allows cybercriminals to sell their malicious tools as a service, meaning they can be used by anyone who purchases it. This means that a person could purchase it and use it against companies or individuals without their knowledge.

The most common types of ransomware are lock screen programs that demand payment in exchange for the victim’s files being unlocked. These programs can be activated by simply clicking on a link or opening an email attachment.

b. Crypto-Ransomware or Encryptors

These are encrypted files that need to be decrypted with the help of a decryption key. If the recipient doesn’t have the decryption key, they will not be able to access those files.

c. Scareware

Scareware is a type of ransomware that tries to scare you into paying up by displaying a fake warning or claiming your computer has been infected with malware.

d. Lockers

Lockers are a type of malware that locks your files until you pay money to unlock them.

e. Doxware and/or Leakware

These are two similar types of ransomware that do not encrypt files but instead display them on the screen as some sort of warning or notification, often with a ransom demand attached.

2. Phishing

Phishing, one of the most common email threats, is a form of Internet fraud that uses email to trick people into giving up their personal information. It’s the practice of sending out fake emails that appear to come from legitimate companies, banks, or even government agencies. These fraudulent emails instruct the victim to click on a link or download an attachment to see their account information and make payments. If they do this, they may accidentally give away valuable personal information such as passwords or Social Security numbers.

a. Pandemic-Related Scams

These scams may be related to the pandemic in some way and attempt to capitalize on fear and anxiety by offering free products or services in exchange for clicking on a malicious link.

b. Brand Impersonation

This type of phishing scam will imitate brands and organizations to trick you into believing they’re legitimate. The emails may ask you for personal details like your credit card number or bank account information, or they may request that you click links to open attachments that are malicious files.

c. Postage-Themed Phishing Emails

A phishing email sent from cybercriminals who target businesses that use post office locations to ship products. These emails will attempt to make you think that they came from UPS or FedEx to get access to your home address. The email says there was an issue with the shipping order coming from the business and asks employees to open an attachment or follow a link to rectify it.

d. Emails with an ‘Urgent’ Tone or Promising Reward

These kinds of emails are sent to you in a manner that looks like they came from your bank, credit card company, or other important organization. They may say something like “We have detected suspicious activity on your account and need to verify whether you authorized this transaction.” These emails can be particularly dangerous because they appear to come from a legitimate source and may be used as a front for scam attempts.

e. Invoice-Themed Emails

Emails that mimic invoice templates and contain links to webpages designed to steal passwords and other personal information from the recipient are called invoice-themed phishing scams.

3. Business Email Compromise (BEC) Attacks

Business email compromise (BEC) is a type of phishing attack where an attacker contacts a company’s business email address in an attempt to obtain confidential information.

BEC uses an impersonation attack to trick employees into providing sensitive data, such as usernames and passwords, by posing as the company’s CEO or another senior executive. The attacker may also use other methods to obtain information like hacking into a commercial server or intercepting communications.

a. CEO Fraud

CEO fraud is when an attacker impersonates the CEO or other senior member of the organization to gain access to confidential information from the company’s email system.

b. Account Compromise

Account compromise occurs when attackers gain access to an employee’s account without their knowledge through methods such as phishing emails or malware on an employee’s computer.

c. Data Theft

Data theft refers to when attackers take sensitive information from within a company’s network without ever having physical access to it. Data may include financial records, customer lists, and even personal information like names and addresses.

d. Attorney Impersonation

It is when a criminal impersonates an attorney and sends a fraudulent email that appears to come from the victim’s attorney.

4. Social Engineering

Social engineering is a very effective tactic used in email threats to defraud victims. It is defined as the act of gaining access to a person’s trust by taking advantage of their emotions and/or personality. It is also known as ‘honey-pot’ attacks.

These attacks are perpetrated by hackers who use a combination of social engineering and spoofed emails to trick their targets into clicking on malicious links or opening attachments that infect their machines with viruses or other malware. The most common example of this kind of attack is the spear-phishing email, which uses a fake but convincing email address to make it appear as though it comes from a trusted source.

Businesses should be aware of these attacks and how they work because they can be used to steal sensitive information or cause damage to your company’s infrastructure.

a. Baiting

Baiting is the process of sending emails with hidden messages to lure a user into clicking on them. The message may be a link or actual content that tricks the recipient into opening it and ultimately disclosing information about themselves.

b. Scareware

Scareware is like bait in that it tricks you into clicking on a link in an email by making you think there’s something wrong with your computer or device. It does this by sending fake warnings about viruses or malware on your computer or device that aren’t there—but if you click on them, they will download malware onto your device.

c. Pretexting

This is when an attacker sends an email pretending to be from someone else to trick the recipient into revealing personal or confidential information.

d. Deep Fakes

Deepfakes are videos that are created using AI software that generates realistic videos of people. They can be used for blackmail, political influence, and other types of manipulation.

5. Exploit-Based Attacks

Exploit-based attacks are email threats that can be configured to perform tasks such as downloading malware, sending spam, or stealing credentials. These attacks are often used by hackers to gain access to a given target’s computer or network.

The exploit is a piece of code that guides the attacker through the process of gaining access to an account or network. To carry out an exploit-based email attack, the attacker needs to find an unpatched vulnerability in software on the targeted system. This can be done by looking for security patches that have been released but not installed on the target system.

Once the exploit has been found, it triggers a worm or virus that infects all computers connected to it. The worm then propagates through these computers by sending copies of itself back out over email networks until it reaches every computer connected with them.

a. Zero-Day Exploits

Zero-day exploits are attacks that have been discovered and exploited before the vulnerability has been patched. The attacker uses this vulnerability to gain access to the target’s computer without the knowledge of the user.

b. Browser Exploit Kits

Browser Exploit Kits are pieces of software that take advantage of vulnerabilities in your browser by using malicious ads to convince you to download a file that contains malware. These files can be distributed through email or other means.

c. File Format Exploits

File Format Exploits work by taking advantage of the file formats used by applications like Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. These exploits can allow hackers to modify files which can allow them access to sensitive information or even take control of the application itself.

d. Man in the Middle (MITM)

Man in the Middle (MITM) attacks are email threats that occur when someone intercepts and alters communications between two computers before they reach their intended destination. This type of attack may be done by a hacker who has gained access to a private computer network or by a government entity that monitors communications for national security reasons such as espionage or terrorism.

Email MITM attacks can be controlled with the help of MTA-STS, a revolutionary authentication protocol that helps secure SMTP server communications. 

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