Common Types of Phishing Attacks and How to Spot Them

Phishing is one type of social engineering tactic hackers have used since the early days of the internet. Now, it’s evolved and is more sophisticated. A phishing scam involves a malicious actor posing as a legitimate, trustworthy source and sharing counterfeit communications to deceive the recipient.

Usually, phishing attacks start with a fraudulent email to lure a victim into sharing sensitive data, such as credit card information, account usernames, passwords, or other financial information.

For businesses, a successful phishing attack can cause a loss of revenue, data exposure, files being rendered inaccessible, and a damaged company reputation. Continue reading to learn about the common types of phishing attacks and how to identify them before they impact your business.



Email phishing attacks are the most well-known type of phishing that occurs on the internet. Hackers send illegitimate emails to recipients, which could be an average consumer or a business employee. Hackers impersonate a known brand or authority figure and lure victims into clicking on a link or downloading some asset.

You can identify an email phishing attack in a few ways. For example, if the email was sent through a public domain address, it could be spam. If it contains a strange attachment, do not click or download it. Any spelling or grammatical errors in emails also signify that the email is likely not legitimate.



Whaling targets a major executive at an organization, such as a CEO, COO, or CFO. Whaling emails have an urgent tone or will claim the organization they’re targeting will face legal consequences if the executive does not follow the instructions included in the email.

Whaling occurs because hackers are trying to steal sensitive information about the company, such as financial records, customer information, or critical login credentials. Executives should be on the lookout for abnormal requests from subordinates and review where the email was sent from.

Additionally, executives should consider using various cybersecurity strategies. A common safeguard is encryption, which can prevent hackers from intercepting email information. However, don’t rely on encryption alone – put other measures in place to protect your organization, such as using strong passwords and installing antivirus software.



In a spear-phishing attack, hackers target a specific group or an individual using online sources to gather information about internal operations in an organization. A spear-phishing email is designed to trick employees into thinking the email is coming from someone else in the organization, not an outsider. Hackers do their best to customize communications and come across as an authentic source.

Employees can identify spear-phishing attempts if requests seem out of the ordinary or request login credentials. Also, employees must be wary of using shared drives, like G-Suite or Dropbox, as it’s possible some of those documents can redirect an employee to a malicious website.



The social media boom has led hackers to use various online platforms to target employees. An angler phishing attack will start with a hacker responding to a tweet or Facebook post, posing, for example, as a brand. They will then provide a malicious link for the user to click on to steal login information.

Employees who use social media should be trained to identify angler phishing scams. They should be wary of strange notifications on their social media accounts and avoid clicking on links from direct messages (DMs). Employees should use the current best social media practices to avoid falling victim to an angler phishing attack.



Smishing uses texts to attack victims, whereas vishing uses voice messages and robocalls to attack. Because so many people use smartphones for business purposes, employees should always be on high alert when receiving messages or calls from unknown numbers.

Employees using smartphones for business reasons should avoid clicking on links sent through text messages. Never answer phone calls from an unknown number or return these calls. It’s also best to avoid sharing personal or company information with anyone outside the organization.

These five types of phishing attacks can damage your organization long-term. Identifying these attacks before they negatively affect your business will protect your organization and employees.



Because the world is becoming increasingly digital, many types of cybersecurity issues have come into the spotlight. From malware to password attacks and everything in between, individuals and businesses are more at risk of facing a cyberattack. Implement comprehensive cybersecurity training and strategies to avoid falling victim to common phishing attacks.

Techvera icon

Written by Zac Amos

Zac is the Features Editor at ReHack where he covers areas like AI, cybersecurity, and other trending technology topics.

April 1, 2022

You May Also Like…

Skip to content