Angler phishing on social media

We take a closer look at social media phishing - also known as angler phishing. Read on to find out what it is and how to spot it.

28-08-2023 - 6 minute read. Posted in: phishing.

Angler phishing on social media

A particularly clever and sneaky type of phishing known as "Angler Phishing" has emerged in the complex world of cyber threats. This misleading strategy, which operates in the realm of social media, attracts naive victims by using false identities that pose as trustworthy customer service employees.

In this blog post, we will examine the mechanics of angler phishing, understand how it works, look at the targeted group, evaluate its efficacy, and arm you with crucial tactics to stop these evil endeavors.

What is angler phishing?

Cybercriminals who engage in angler phishing create fake social media identities in order to pose as customer support employees from trustworthy businesses. Attackers target social media users who share complaints about a company's services by using these fake accounts.

One of the reasons why hackers are converting to phishing on social media is that it’s a lot quicker and easier on social media, since everyone can create accounts and choose a fitting name. This means that hackers can essentially create a “customer support” account, and call it e.g. “@goggle-support” and trick people into thinking they’re truly from Google Support, and not malicious actors.

The cybercriminals try to collect personal information from the victims, or trick them into downloading malware to breach their cyber security. Another tool hackers use more frequently are botnets - so if they succeed in installing malware onto your device, they can merge it into their enormous botnet they have round the globe.

Unraveling the methodology

In order for us to avoid falling into the angler phishing trap, we should take a closer look at the methods the hackers use.

  • Platform looting: Angler phishing typically takes place inside the vast settings of social media platforms like Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), and Instagram. Cybercriminals create fake accounts here by copying the branding and messaging of well-known businesses, ranging from financial institutions to leading e-commerce organizations.

  • Strategic Selection: Hackers browse the social media platforms related to the business they intend to imitate, to find accounts who have complained or voiced their complaints in public. Once the hackers have this knowledge, they initiate direct communication via direct messaging, exploiting the victims' need for help.

  • Deceptive dialogue: Using identities which often resemble the real company's handle, the hackers deceitfully chat with victims while posing as legitimate customer support employees. Since they mimic genuine customer support, they strive to convince the victim that they are the real customer support, so the victim ultimately gives their valuable personal information.

  • Exploitative Encounters: After initiating communication, the attacker manipulates the conversation to get victims to reveal confidential information, such as passwords or bank details - they might also try to get you to click a link that contains malware. Malware will then give the hacker access to the victim's device or private information.

Targeting the Vulnerable

The target audience for angler phishing is a group of social media users who recently have expressed discontent and complained about an organization. As the victims look for a quick solution to their issues, these people are more likely to interact with representatives of what appears to be customer service because they want to get their problem fixed.

Victims are more likely to fall for the trap because of the immediate response and the attacker's false identity.

Hackers possess an incredible amount of technical knowledge, so they will evidently be able to answer many of the questions that a victim has about their problems. Since they can imitate customer support both visually and by their knowledge, it can be difficult to distinguish them from the real.

This will thus make their act a lot more convincing - resulting in a victim being more inclined to give personal information.

Exploiting our frustration

Angler phishing has proven to be a very successful strategy which takes advantage of the vulnerabilities of frustrated users. Large organizations, which are frequently overwhelmed with complaints, may not respond right away, creating a gap in defense which the attacker can and will take advantage of.

If they are successful, cybercriminals can access crucial information and potentially:

  • Hijack accounts
  • Commit identity theft
  • Start new phishing attacks using compromised profiles

We are more prone to hand out personal information when we’re frustrated and want a problem solved - and this is of course a human trait that hackers exploit.

Shielding Against Angler Phishing

It can be tricky to see through the hackers act - we do, however, have a few tips and indicators you can look for, when you’re online:

  • Verify the authenticity: Be cautious and confirm the legitimacy of any accounts you interact with. Try to figure out when an account was created, look for how many friends/followers they have and how many posts they have on their account.

  • Direct confirmation: Verify a customer service representative's identity when they approach you by contacting the business via authorized channels. This extra step could take some time, but it guarantees that you are speaking with an actual employee.

  • Beware of links: Be careful when clicking links that are sent to you by strangers, especially in e-mails and direct messages. You can always say that you won’t click the link since you don’t know the person, and your cybersecurity is very important to you. If you’re sitting with a genuine employee, they will try and explain an alternative to you clicking the link - whereas a fraud often will try and convince you to click the link.

  • Flagging fraud: Report suspicious accounts to the respective social media platforms. It might help others avoid falling for the same scam. Use the reporting features offered by the platforms for a fast and easy reporting process.

Responding to Victimization

If you’ve become a victim of an angler phishing attack - or any other type of cyber attack - you should act as soon as you discover the attack. Reset your passwords to your accounts, and notify the involved parties; this can be your bank if your bank details have been compromised, your e-mail service provider or any other relevant organization.

Angler phishing serves as proof of the constantly changing strategies used by cybercriminals and emphasizes the importance of being aware and cautious online. You can improve your digital defenses and prevent the schemes of cybercriminals by understanding the methods they use in these social media-based attacks, spotting potential warning signs, and acting quickly to take action.

You can navigate the connected world of social media with resiliency and confidence by being cautious and by looking for the signs of malicious actors on the loose

Author Caroline Preisler

Caroline Preisler

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

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