Criminals are constantly coming up with new, inventive ways to uncover holes and steal our sensitive data. "Phishing-as-a-Service" (PhaaS) is one of those techniques that has gained popularity among cybercriminals in recent years.
This sneaky type of cybercrime makes it easier than ever for cybercriminals to target people and organizations because it blends the art of phishing with the practicality of a subscription-based model. We will discuss Phishing-as-a-Service, looking at what it is, how it operates, what it entails, and how to protect yourself and your company from becoming the next victim of this growing threat.
We’ve already covered the basics of MaaS - but now it’s time to look at its evil cousin.
Firstly, phishing is a hacking method that creates convincing e-mails, ads and phone calls where a malicious actor mimics legitimate organizations or people. When we see a trustworthy organization or person reaching out to us, asking for login credentials or some piece of information, we usually don’t question their legitimacy - that is unfortunately something hackers have figured out to exploit. And now they have made it even easier to execute with Phishing-as-a-Service.
Phishing-as-a-Service is a sophisticated cybercriminal business model that provides criminals with an entire set of tools for carrying out phishing attacks. It essentially gives attackers all the equipment, resources, and infrastructure required to carry out large-scale phishing attacks. Even non-technical criminals can carry out cyberattacks thanks to this kind of service, which operates on the dark web and is accessible for rent or purchase.
How PhaaS Works
Phishing-as-a-Service providers offer a selection of deals or packages, each one tailored to the requirements of the customer of said package. These deals and packages can consist of e-mail templates, fake websites, web hosting, domain registration services, and even analytics software to monitor the campaign's effectiveness.
Criminals can tailor their phishing attacks to specifically target certain people, companies, or sectors. Given that the phishing e-mails and websites are made to look like reliable sources, this level of personalisation boosts its probability of success.
PhaaS providers offer infrastructure to send phishing e-mails. The infrastructure can be botnets, compromised servers, or access to reliable email services. This infrastructure helps the criminal get past security precautions and enhances the attack's authenticity - which we might fall for.
Phishing-as-a-Service's main component is automation. The entire process, from sending phishing emails to obtaining stolen data, can be automated by cybercriminals with PhaaS. This scalability enables simultaneous targeting of a huge number of potential victims, making it even more effective than the "classic" phishing attacks.
How Phishing-as-a-Service can affect you
Phishing-as-a-Service can have major consequences for organizations and individuals alike. Below we have listed some of the most prevalent threats we face.
PhaaS makes it a lot easier for cybercriminals to enter our software, leading to an increase in phishing attempts. It thus becomes quite difficult for security experts to keep up with this rising amount of cyberthreats.
PhaaS providers often offer advanced phishing templates and infrastructure, making the attacks more difficult to identify. Victims are more prone to fall victim to these well-crafted scams than others.
With the help of phishing-as-a-service, hackers can target an array of people and businesses, from small startups to huge corporations. Nobody is safe from the danger - and hackers can target many people all at once.
If a phishing attempt is successful, it may cause a data breach, revealing private data like financial information, intellectual property, and login credentials. A data breach can have expensive and negative effects on anyone who is involved.
Organizations that fall victim to phishing attacks can suffer severe damage to their reputation and decrease customer trust, which can be very difficult to regain once you have been victim of a breach.
Phishing scams can result in significant financial losses - it can both be because of fraud, stolen funds and the funds used to recover from the cyberattack.
If organizations don't sufficiently protect customer data, they may be subject to legal and regulatory repercussions. It becomes essential to comply with data protection rules in order to avoid these repercussions.
Protecting yourself from PhaaS
While the threat of Phishing-as-a-Service is significant, there are measures users and organizations can take to protect themselves from this cyberthreat:
Regular awareness training will help employees stay vigilant online. It furthermore teaches them to spot malicious activities and emails they may receive. Training can thus help people recognize the signs of phishing e-mails and avoid falling victim to them. Employees will also become aware of their online activities which include checking the authenticity of websites (by e.g. checking the domain, HTTPS and the URL).
Implement good and well-known e-mail filtering solutions that can detect and delete phishing emails before they reach your inbox.
By using MFA you make life a lot harder for hackers. It adds an additional layer of security, so the cybercriminals would need not only your login credentials for the specific website, but also e.g. biometric data or access to a MFA-app.
Keep software, operating systems, and antivirus programs up to date to minimize vulnerabilities that cybercriminals might exploit - they use flaws in software and gaps in the software security to get access to your software.
Prepare an incident response plan, so you know how to react in case of a data breach or phishing attack. This plan will outline the relevant steps you should take to minimize the damage and data loss.
Lastly, you should ensure that your organization complies with any regulations and data protection laws. This way you avoid any legal consequences if you should be a victim of a data breach.
Remember your cybersecurity
Phishing-as-a-Service is yet another cybethreat we should be cautious about. This removes the previous limits cybercrime had - by only being for the technically skilled hackers. Now, every person who wishes to do others harm online, can find and purchase a PhaaS model. That is why we should be vigilant and extra careful when we’re online. We want to avoid becoming the next victim of data breaches.
Hackers know that humans make the easiest target, so many criminals will use phishing and social engineering to earn money and exploit sensitive personal data. So, awareness training is a key element to prevent you and your organization from getting into the hackers’ radar.
Caroline is a copywriter here at Moxso beside her education. She is doing her Master's in English and specializes in translation and the psychology of language. Both fields deal with communication between people and how to create a common understanding - these elements are incorporated into the copywriting work she does here at Moxso.View all posts by Caroline Preisler