Different Types of Phishing Attacks and the Best Ways to Avoid Them


Different Types of Phishing Attacks and the Best Ways to Avoid Them

Phishing is a cybercrime that focuses on tricking individuals into revealing information (usually valuable or private). The first recorded use of the term occurred in 1996 when a wide swept phishing attack made use of the AOL to steal log in and account information. Since then phishing has only evolved, with attacks getting more sophisticated and more costly. So let’s look at the types of phishing attacks currently known and how you can best protect yourself from them.

What Is Phishing?

Phishing is a type of cybercrime where attackers attempt to deceive people into revealing sensitive information, such as passwords, credit card details, and personally identifiable data by impersonating an official institution or individual. The attacks typically occur through email, text messages, or phone calls. The attackers often employ spoofing techniques to make the victim believe the communication originates from a reliable source. Different types of Phishing attacks have become increasingly sophisticated, with malicious websites created that look identical to the legitimate site being targeted, enabling attackers to observe everything the victim does and bypass any additional security barriers on their behalf. Phishing emails may also contain malicious attachments or links that install malware, such as ransomware, onto the victim’s computer when clicked. The following are different types of phishing attacks:

  1. Email Phishing
  2. Spear Phishing
  3. Vishing and Smishing
  4. Clone Phishing
  5. Pharming
  6. HTTPS Phishing
  7. Pop-up Phishing
  8. Evil Twin Phishing

Let’s learn more about each.

Email Phishing

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Scammers send fraudulent emails to you in order to get your personal details.

©In Green/Shutterstock.com

Email phishing is a type of fraud in which an attacker impersonates a legitimate entity or person via email or other communication channels. They use these emails to distribute malicious links or attachments that can extract victims’ login credentials or account information. The aim is to deceive people into revealing personal details like passwords, credit card numbers, or other sensitive data. To protect against email phishing attacks, follow these tips:

  • Before clicking any link, double-check the email addresses and website addresses. Fraudulent addresses often look almost identical to legitimate ones with minor modifications such as spelling or character use.
  • If an email requests login details or other personal information, go directly to the site instead of following any link provided in the message.
  • Be sure to verify the sender’s name, email address, and domain before responding to any email to avoid falling prey to phishing attacks.
  • Be wary of emails with an urgent tone or those seeking personal/confidential information, as these may be signs of phishing activity.
  • Ensure your computer and antivirus software are up to date to better protect yourself against such attempts.

Spear Phishing

Spear phishing is a highly targeted cyberattack method hackers use to steal sensitive information or install malware on specific targets. Hackers typically use spear-phishing attacks to obtain sensitive data, such as account details, financial details, or credentials. Unlike regular, generalized phishing attacks, spear-phishing attempts are specifically tailored for each victim. This makes them highly effective and difficult to prevent. To prevent spear phishing attacks, take these precautions:

  • Avoid posting personal information online, such as your phone number, as attackers could use this to make their spear-phishing emails appear more legitimate.
  • Before clicking any links or attachments in an email, carefully inspect the sender’s address and content for signs of phishing.
  • If an email appears suspicious, even if it appears to have come from someone familiar, confirm with the sender that they sent it.
  • Email scanning tools can detect potential indicators of phishing attacks and block them.
  • Participate in employee cyber awareness training to become informed of the tactics used in spear-phishing attacks.

Define Vishing and Smishing

WhatsApp user viewing a message on their phone
WhatsApp is a free communication app for Android smartphones, iPhones, Macs, and Windows PCs. Its wide spread access makes it a popular phishing platform.

©Alex Photo Stock/Shutterstock.com

Vishing and Smishing are phishing scams where attackers attempt to deceive victims into sharing personal information or installing malware on their devices. Smishing, which combines “SMS” and “phishing,” involves sending SMS or text messages to deceive. Vishing, on the other hand, works similarly; cybercriminals use VoIP (Voice over IP) technology instead to place phone calls, creating almost identical conditions as Smishing. To protect against Smishing and Vishing attacks, you can follow these tips:

  • Pause, reflect, and take action: Scammers often create a sense of urgency to coerce you into doing what they desire. Take some time to consider what is being asked of you and why before taking any actions.
  • Never click on links from someone unfamiliar to you. Doing so can shield you directly from scams and reduce the likelihood of being targeted.
  • Be wary of unusual requests or demands for personal information such as credentials, payment, and other sensitive data. These can often indicate a scam.
  • Verifying the identity of any sender requires contacting them through an official method (like calling their office phone number or visiting their website) before responding to any requests for information or action.

Clone Phishing

Clone phishing is a cyberattack in which an attacker copies or replicates a legitimate email to spread malware or gather sensitive information from its recipient. In short, they copy everything about a legitimate message to gain confidence and often make it virtually indistinguishable from an authentic one. Attackers may alter minor details like adding links to their phishing site or attaching malicious attachments for added effect. To protect against clone phishing scams, take these measures:

  • Remain Calm: Most clone phishing scams involve an urgency-based tone. These scams are designed to induce panic in recipients and cause them to act irrationally (by clicking or downloading something without verifying its validity first). Be sure to verify time-sensitive messages before proceeding.
  • Maintain regular email account checks: This is one of the simplest ways to avoid a clone phishing scam.
  • Be wary of reward messages: These are common clone phishing emails that request you click a link to collect coupons, rewards or promotions. Be wary because this could be an imitation phishing email.
  • Acquire awareness of clone phishing: Although this may take some practice, recognizing clone phishing attempts is essential in protecting yourself against malicious scammers.
  • Develop some healthy skepticism: Clone phishing attacks can be challenging to spot, as victims usually deal with someone they trust. But some signs can help identify a clone phishing attempt, so always inspect messages for anything unusual.


Pharming is a type of cyberattack that involves redirecting web traffic from legitimate sites to fake ones. They then steal personal information such as usernames and passwords, financial details, and more. The attacker typically installs malicious code on the victim’s computer or server. They direct them to a spoofed website where they may be duped into providing personal data or login credentials. Pharming has become one of the hardest attacks to detect and prevent. To prevent pharming, you can take these precautions:

  • Utilize antivirus software: This is one of the most efficient methods to avoid pharming. Antivirus software helps detect or block malicious or untrustworthy programs from being installed on your computer.
  • Change Your Router’s Default Settings: Change the password on your router to something more secure; this increases home internet safety.
  • Select a Reputable Internet Service Provider (ISP): Utilizing an established, legitimate ISP is your first line of defense against pharming.
  • Carefully Check URLs: Be alert when visiting websites and pay close attention to the URL. Pharming attacks often use subtle spelling corrections or similar tricks. For instance, using 0 (zero) instead of O (the 15th letter in English alphabet).
  • Practice Safe Browsing Habits: Pharming attacks can be difficult to spot, but safe browsing practices will help shield you against them.
  • Keep Your Software Up-To-Date: Regularly upgrade your operating system, browser and other software programs to guarantee you have the latest security patches.
  • Implement DNS security measures: Use DNS security extensions (DNSSEC). Protect your domain with a registry lock to prevent unauthorized modifications to its DNS records.

HTTPS Phishing

HTTPS phishing is a type of cybercriminal attack where cybercriminals use fraudulent websites with HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) to deceive users into divulging sensitive information like passwords or credit card details. Because HTTPS phishing often takes advantage of its association with secure and legitimate websites, it’s easier for attackers to trick victims into believing their site is genuine. To prevent HTTPS phishing attacks, follow these guidelines:

  • Stay Aware of Phishing Techniques: Cybercriminals are always devising new phishing schemes. Stay informed on the newest scams to avoid becoming a victim.
  • Utilize an anti-phishing toolbar: An anti-phishing toolbar is a web browser extension that helps detect and block phishing websites, including HTTPS phishing sites.
  • Be wary of signs of phishing: Check for misspellings or unusual URLs, and exercise caution when entering sensitive information onto a website. Don’t rely solely on HTTPS or a padlock icon to determine the legitimacy of a site.
  • Be Wary of Links: Avoid clicking links from unsolicited emails or messages. Instead, type the website address directly into your browser or use a trusted search engine to locate it.
  • Verifying the website’s security: Click on the padlock icon in the address bar to view its security certificate and ensure a trusted authority has issued it.
  • Use strong and Unique Passwords: Craft complex passwords and use different ones for each account to make it more difficult for cybercriminals to access multiple accounts if they manage to obtain one password.
  • Enable multi-factor authentication: This adds a layer of protection by requiring additional information or steps to access your account. This decreases the chance of unauthorized entry.
  • Maintain the Security of Your Software: Make sure your operating system, web browser, and security software are regularly upgraded in order to safeguard against known vulnerabilities and threats.

Pop-up Phishing

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Make sure not to click this carelessly (or disable pop-ups altogether).


Pop-up phishing is a social engineering attack by cybercriminals to trick users into divulging personal information such as login credentials or financial data. This type of phishing involves sending pop-up messages directly to the user’s computer. These messages then encourage them to click on either a link or button that takes them to an impostor website designed to harvest their details. To protect against pop-up phishing attacks, take these steps:

  • Block Pop-ups: Utilize your web browser settings to disable pop-ups. For example, in Microsoft Edge, go to Settings > Cookies and site permissions > Pop-ups and redirects, and turn on the Block (recommended) toggle.
  • Use anti-spam filters: Most email providers provide filters that route suspected spam mail into a separate folder, helping protect you from phishing and other email-based scams.
  • Block Suspicious Senders: If you receive messages from people or sources you don’t trust, block them immediately to protect yourself.
  • Be wary of unexpected pop-ups: Do not click any unexpected messages while browsing the web. Be especially wary if the pop-up claims an issue with your device’s security or requests personal information.
  • Updating Browser and Security Software: Ensure your browser, operating system, and security software are up-to-date. Thus guaranteeing you the latest protection against various types of phishing attacks and other online threats. 

Evil Twin Phishing

Evil Twin Phishing is a cyberattack where criminals create fake Wi-Fi hotspots to impersonate public networks, such as those found at airports or coffee shops, to harvest personal data from unwitting users. The attacker sets up this fake access point using their router or a device like the Wi-Fi Pineapple, which mimics the name (SSID) of an authentic network, then connects any non-HTTPS data transmitted, which gives them access to sensitive information like login credentials and financial details. To protect against Evil Twin attacks, you can take these steps:

  • Utilize a Virtual Private Network (VPN): VPNs protect your online activity from being monitored by hackers. Thus making them an essential tool when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks.
  • Verifying Network Authenticity: Before connecting to any public Wi-Fi network, ensure its legitimacy by consulting the location’s staff or verifying the exact SSID provided by the establishment.
  • Enable HTTPS on websites: HTTPS encrypts data sent between your device and the website, making it harder for attackers to intercept sensitive information. Ensure you use HTTPS when visiting websites requiring login credentials or personal details.
  • Utilize a Secure Wi-Fi Connection: When possible, opt for a Wi-Fi network that requires a password or other form of authentication; these networks are less susceptible to spoofing by malicious actors.
  • Install Security Software: Make sure your devices are up to date with the latest security patches, and install reliable antivirus software to safeguard against various forms of malware and cyberattacks.
  • Be wary of Wi-Fi auto-connect: Disable the auto-connect feature on your devices to stop them from connecting automatically to potentially malicious networks.

Best Practices for Preventing Different Types of Phishing Attacks

Phishing attacks remain a persistent and growing danger to individuals and organizations. These scams use deceptive messages via email or text to manipulate recipients into divulging sensitive information, like login credentials or financial data. Unfortunately, falling victim to a phishing attempt can have devastating results: identity theft, financial losses, or compromised systems. To safeguard yourself and your organization against such risks, you must stay informed about best practices for avoiding phishing attempts.

Educate and Train Employees

One of the most effective ways to prevent phishing attacks is by educating and training employees on identifying and handling potential threats. Regular training sessions should cover current phishing tactics, warning signs, and what steps should be taken when a suspicious message arrives. Employees should also be encouraged to report any such messages received to relevant personnel for review.

Implement a Strong Email Security System

A robust email security system can significantly reduce the likelihood of different types of phishing attacks reaching your employees’ inboxes. Features like email filtering, spam detection, and sandboxing help identify and block phishing emails before they reach their intended targets. Further, consider using Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC) to protect your domain from being used in phishing attempts.

Keep Software and Systems Up-To-Date

Phishing attacks often target known vulnerabilities in outdated software and operating systems. Regularly updating your programs and systems can help safeguard you against these threats. Be sure to apply security patches and upgrades as soon as they become available. Also, consider using automatic updates for optimal system upkeep.

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

authy two factor authentication 2fa
You could use a dedicated 2-Factor authentication app.

©ECO LENS/Shutterstock.com

MFA is a security measure that requires users to provide multiple forms of identification when accessing their accounts. This typically includes something the user knows (e.g., password), something they possess (e.g., security token), and something they are (e.g., fingerprint). Implementing MFA can significantly reduce the risk of unauthorized access to accounts, even if login credentials are compromised in phishing attacks.

Regularly Monitor and Analyze Email Traffic

Regularly monitoring your organization’s email traffic can help detect and block phishing campaigns before they cause harm. Be on the lookout for unusual patterns, such as an increase in emails from unknown senders or messages with suspicious attachments or links. Further, analyzing this data provides invaluable insights into the effectiveness of current security measures.

Create and Implement Security Policies

Establishing clear and comprehensive security policies guarantees employees understand their role in preventing variou types of phishing attacks. These documents should outline the acceptable use of company resources, password management, and reporting procedures for suspicious messages. Regularly review and update these policies to remain abreast of emerging threats as well as best practices.

Promoting a Culture of Security Awareness

Fostering an atmosphere of security awareness within your organization is essential to reduce the risk of phishing attacks. Encourage employees to stay informed about threats and best practices while creating open communication about cybersecurity concerns. Recognize and reward those who demonstrate strong dedication towards security. Also, consider implementing awareness programs or events to keep this topic in mind for staff members.

Conduct Phishing Simulations

Phishing simulations are an ideal way to evaluate the effectiveness of your organization’s security measures and employee training programs. By simulating real-life phishing attacks, you can identify system vulnerabilities and assess employee ability to detect and respond to threats. Use these results as input for improving security measures and training programs moving forward.

Establish an Incident Response Plan

Establishing an incident response plan for your organization can help your organization quickly and effectively address phishing attacks when they arise. This document should specify the roles and responsibilities of various team members. It also contains the steps to take when an attack is identified, and communication channels to be utilized during the incident. Regularly review and update your plan and conduct drills to ensure everyone is well-prepared to handle a real-life phishing attempt.

Utilize Anti-Phishing Tools and Services

Anti-phishing tools and services exist that can help organizations detect and eliminate phishing attempts. These solutions include threat intelligence feeds, URL filtering, and browser plugins that warn users about potentially hazardous websites. Incorporating these elements into your organization’s overall security strategy will further bolster defenses against phishing attacks. Different types of phishing attacks remain a serious threat to individuals and organizations, with cybercriminals constantly strengthening their techniques. Following the best practices outlined in this article can significantly reduce your likelihood of falling victim to these attacks.

Phishing is a type of social engineering attack often used to steal user data.

©Alexander Geiger/Shutterstock.com


While phishing attempts can be scary, being informed and prepared will drastically reduce your risk. In addition, this guide should have helped you get onto the right path. So be wary, keep up to date, and stay safe.

Different Types of Phishing Attacks and the Best Ways to Avoid Them FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What should I do if I fall victim to a phishing attack?

If you believe you’ve been scammed, immediately change your passwords, monitor accounts for suspicious activity, and report the incident to appropriate parties (e.g., the bank, IT department, or credit bureaus).

How can organizations protect their employees from phishing attacks?

Organizations can implement security measures like employee training, spam filters, network firewalls, and monitoring for suspicious activity. Encouraging employees to report suspicious emails can also assist in detecting potential threats.

How can I protect myself from phishing attacks?

Some best practices include keeping software current, using strong and unique passwords, enabling two-factor authentication, being wary of email attachments and links, and becoming knowledgeable on the newest phishing tactics.

What is email phishing?

Email phishing is the most prevalent type of phishing attack, in which an attacker sends fraudulent emails to victims pretending to be a legitimate entity with the purpose of collecting sensitive information or installing malicious software.

What are the different types of phishing attacks?

There are several types of phishing attacks, including email phishing, spear phishing, whaling, vishing, smishing, pharming, clone phishing, and search engine phishing. Each method uses a different approach to trick the target into revealing sensitive information or installing malicious software.

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