Phishing is one of the most common and effective cybersecurity attack vectors and it’s on the rise. In 2023, 74% of account takeovers were launched from a phishing attempt. Within 10 minutes of a malicious email appearing in their inbox, 84% of employees either replied to it with sensitive information or interacting with a spoofed link or attachment. And nearly half of email users mistakenly believe that clicking on a malicious link or opening a malicious attachment will only impact their device.


What Is Phishing and How Can it Impact an Organization?

Phishing usually involves malicious actors sending fraudulent emails disguised as sources familiar to the target to steal sensitive data. Typically attempted via email containing malicious links, attachments or downloads, phishing is a vehicle to infect the host system with malware. In 2023, 94% of organizations fell victim to phishing attacks.

However, phishing can be as simple as the attacker soliciting personal information directly from the recipient, making it seem as if the requestor is a trustworthy source. A single, successful phishing attempt can have lasting consequences for an organization, including:


  • Financial loss
  • Operational disruption
  • Reputational damage
  • Loss of consumer trust

All of the above effects are enough to severely impact an organization. However, combined with the costs of repairing customer relationships and recouping financial losses, businesses can shut down permanently after a successful phishing attempt. IBM found the global average cost of a data breach in 2023 was $4.35 million, the highest in their reporting history.

Different Types of Phishing Attacks

different types of phishing attempt

Hackers use different types of phishing depending on their intended target and the quality of data they hope to exfiltrate. Five types of phishing attempts are:

Deceptive phishing

Deceptive phishing involves the hacker sending emails disguised as a legitimate organization to solicit a target’s sensitive personal information.

deceptive phishing

Spear phishing

This is a more precise phishing attempt type. Spear phishing incorporates the target’s specific personal information into fraudulent emails to suggest a legitimate connection with the sender.

spear phishing

Clone phishing

A more sophisticated phishing attempt, clone phishing involves attackers copying emails their targets received previously and replacing legitimate links and downloads with malicious ones.

clone phishing

Whaling attack

For many black hat hackers, stealing data from senior executives is the gold standard in malicious activity. Similar to deceptive phishing, whaling attacks specifically target C-level executives to steal higher quality data.

phishing attempt whaling attack


Longlining attacks are mass-customized phishing messages typically engineered to look like they are arriving in small quantities, mimicking targeted attacks. Attackers leverage approaches used by mass-marketing campaigners to generate millions of dissimilar messages.

Longlining Phishing Attempt

5 Common Indicators of a Phishing Attempt

Phishing emails are effective because they seem real and can be difficult to spot. However, there are several common signs of a phishing attempt through email users should be aware of.



phishing attempt

Spelling errors

Of course, everyone makes a spelling or grammar mistake from time to time, but phishing attempts are often riddled with them. If an email contains multiple indicators on this list and numerous spelling and grammatical errors, it’s probably a scam.
spelling errors phishing attempt

Unusual requests

If you don’t usually interact with your CEO and you suddenly receive an urgent email from them asking you to complete a seemingly mundane task (like sending them your phone number), that’s likely the sign of an illegitimate request from a threat actor.

unusual requests phishing attempt

Strange email content

A phishing email may contain content that is inconsistent with your understanding of the relationship with the supposed sender. For example, the sender might introduce themselves in the email, despite claiming to be someone with whom you have an established relationship.

Strange Email Content phishing attempt

Personal information solicitation

Most companies understand that email can be unsecure, so they rarely use it to ask for personal information. An email containing a request for sensitive information (e.g., date of birth, home address, etc.) is probably an attempt to steal your data.

Personal Information Solicitation phishing attempt

Unfamiliar email addresses

If one or more of the other indicators on this list are present but you’re still unsure, look at the email address of the sender. If it looks real (that is, if it’s a legitimate company email address), then you might be safe. When the email address doesn’t match that of the sender, it’s probably phishing.

unfamiliar email address phishing attempt

Steps to Take to Keep Your Data Protected from a Phishing Attempt

There are a number of steps organizations can — and should — take to protect their sensitive data from phishing attacks. Because phishing attacks often take place via email, anti-phishing training for employees is a very effective way to prevent a security breach. Employees should take caution before clicking any links or downloading attachments they receive over email, making sure they are certain they know who the sender is before taking action.

And while 98% of organizations report having a phishing training program, only 56% of them trained everyone in the organization and just 35% ran phishing simulations. Organizations must implement comprehensive set of cybersecurity controls that go beyond employee training to thwart a phishing attempt.

It’s critical that companies conduct routine monitoring of their entire security infrastructure to identify possible security vulnerabilities and patch them immediately upon detection. They also must re-evaluate governance policies on a regular basis and update them to reflect emerging threats. Investing in the latest anti-malware software can help organizations strengthen their security posture by detecting breaches and automating incident response.

Phishing Attempts

Act Now to Protect Your Data 

It’s more important than ever to identify phishing attempts and keep bad actors at bay. Fortra’s Alert Logic provides unrivaled security for any environment. Our around-the-clock threat detection and security expertise supplies organizations with the tools and expertise they need should the worst happen.

Alert Logic Product Management Team
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Alert Logic Product Management Team

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