15 Different Types of Phishing Attacks with Examples

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types of Phishing Attacks

Have you ever received a suspicious email asking for your personal information or clicked on a link that took you to an unfamiliar website? In today’s world, these experiences are all too common as cybercriminals become increasingly advanced in their attempts to deceive and exploit unsuspecting individuals through phishing attacks.

Phishing attacks have become a prevalent threat, with Google blocking around 100 million phishing emails every single day, affecting both individuals and organisations. These deceptive tactics are designed to trick users into revealing sensitive information, leading to financial losses, identity theft, and compromised data security.

In this blog article, we’ll look at different types of phishing attempts, present real-world examples, and share important tips to help you identify and avoid falling prey to these frauds. Let’s get started and discover the crucial insights you need to keep one step ahead of cybercriminals.

What is a Phishing Attack?

Phishing is a malicious practice in which criminals pose as legitimate institutions to trick people into disclosing sensitive information or engaging in activities that endanger their security. It’s similar to a digital con game, in which attackers use human psychology and technological flaws to achieve their evil goals. With the growth of online communication channels and the growing sophistication of cyber threats, phishing attacks have grown into sophisticated schemes capable of compromising even the most diligent defences.

Different Types of Phishing Attacks

Email Phishing

Email phishing is one of the most common types of phishing. It relies on fraudulent emails to trick unaware users into clicking malicious links, downloading malware-infected attachments, or disclosing sensitive information.

Example: In 2023, email attacks on businesses tripled, with hackers using generative AI tools like ChatGPT to craft more convincing phishing emails. One notable case involved a fake email from a supposed colleague requesting urgent payment, which led to a significant financial loss for the company.

How do hackers send phishing emails?

Hackers send phishing emails by using spoofed email addresses, creating convincing content, and often including malicious links or attachments to deceive recipients.

Also Read: How Scammers Use Emails To Target Individuals And Organisations

Spear Phishing 

Spear phishing is a targeted form of phishing attack where cybercriminals tailor their tactics to specific individuals or organisations.

Unlike traditional phishing campaigns, which cast a wide net in the hopes of catching unsuspecting victims, spear phishing attacks use personalised and meticulously crafted messages to trick recipients into disclosing sensitive information, such as login credentials, financial data, or proprietary information.

Example: In 2019, cybercriminals broke into a finance department employee’s computer and sent emails to numerous government entities, fraudulently reporting a change in bank account information. Two agencies responded to the request: one lost $63,000 in December and over $2.6 million in January, and the other transferred $1.5 million in January.


Whaling attacks, also known as CEO fraud or executive impersonation, target high-profile individuals within an organisation, such as senior executives, board members, or key decision-makers. By exploiting the authority and influence wielded by these individuals, attackers seek to manipulate their targets into divulging confidential information, authorising fraudulent transactions, or compromising sensitive data.

Example: In 2016, Snapchat was the victim of a whaling attack when an attacker impersonating CEO Evan Spiegel wrote an email to a payroll team member. The fraudulent email requested payroll information, and the unaware employee responded, disclosing critical payroll information for multiple employees. 

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Clone Phishing

Clone phishing is the process of making counterfeit clones of legitimate emails or websites and changing them to add malicious material or links. Attackers use the trust built by authentic messages to trick receivers into providing sensitive information, such as login passwords, financial information, or personal details. The cloned material frequently mimics the original, making it difficult for recipients to detect the false character of the communication.

Example: In 2021, cybercriminals capitalised on the COVID-19 pandemic by launching clone phishing campaigns targeting individuals seeking information about vaccines.

HTTPS phishing

HTTPS phishing, also known as SSL phishing or secure phishing, is a type of phishing scam that takes advantage of the trust associated with secure connections made via the HTTPS protocol. Unlike typical phishing attempts, which employ unencrypted HTTP connections, HTTPS phishing uses SSL/TLS encryption to create a false sense of security, making it more difficult for consumers to identify bogus websites.

Example: The hacking group Scarlet Widow collected employee emails from various companies and sent them phishing messages. These emails were basically blank, with only one short link. When the receiver clicked on the link, they were directed to a false, secure-looking website where their sensitive information can be stolen.


Vishing, also known as voice phishing, involves using phone calls to trick someone into disclosing critical information or engaging in security-compromising actions. Attackers frequently use automated voice communications or impersonate reputable businesses like banks, government agencies, or technical support to trick their victims into disclosing sensitive information or transferring payments.

Example: In 2020, a 90-year-old woman in Hong Kong was deceived through a series of phone calls in which she was told her identity had been involved in criminal activities in China. Convinced by the scammers, she ended up making 10 payments totalling $41 million.


Smishing, also known as SMS phishing, is a sort of cyber assault that entails sending false text messages to trick receivers into disclosing sensitive information, downloading malware-infected files, or following harmful links. Similar to email phishing, smishing uses social engineering techniques and psychological manipulation to confuse people and jeopardise their security.

Example: In 2020, the Australian Cyber Security Centre responded to a rise in smishing text messages claiming to provide “guidelines” on COVID-19 testing locations and timings. These communications looked to be from “GOV” and contained a link to a website that claimed to provide this information. However, clicking the link downloaded malicious software onto the victim’s device.

Also Read: How Can You Avoid Downloading Malicious Codes?

Is smishing the same as spoofing?

No, smishing and spoofing are not the same thing. Smishing involves fraudulent SMS messages while spoofing fakes the sender’s information to appear as a trusted source.

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Business Email Compromise (BEC)

Business Email Compromise (BEC) is a sophisticated cyber attack targeting businesses, government agencies, and organisations that involves compromising legitimate email accounts to conduct fraudulent activities. Unlike traditional phishing attacks that primarily focus on individual users, BEC attacks specifically target organisations and aim to deceive employees into performing unauthorised actions, such as transferring funds, disclosing sensitive information, or initiating wire transfers.

Example: Toyota Boshoku Corporation was the target of a $37 million BEC attack in 2019. Despite the large sums involved, hackers persuaded an employee to move funds from the European business before the theft was discovered. This event was Toyota’s third BEC attack that year, highlighting the ongoing threat posed by such scams. As Toyota discovered personally, BEC assaults frequently occur in succession, using initial breaches to commit additional thefts of money, intellectual property, data, or identities. 

Pharming and DNS-Based Phishing

Pharming is a type of cyber attack that redirects users from legitimate websites to fraudulent ones without their knowledge or consent. This malicious redirection occurs at the DNS (Domain Name System) level, where attackers manipulate DNS records to point domain names to IP addresses controlled by cybercriminals. DNS-based phishing, also known as DNS spoofing or cache poisoning, is a specific subset of pharming that involves exploiting vulnerabilities in DNS servers to intercept and modify DNS queries, redirecting users to malicious websites that mimic legitimate ones.

Example: In 2019, a humanitarian group in Venezuela launched a website for volunteers to manage donations. Shortly after, cybercriminals created a fake website that looked almost identical to the original. They used the same IP address, making it hard to spot the difference. The fake site had a form like the real one, leading thousands of volunteers to enter personal details. This led to sensitive information being stolen and potentially misused.

Watering Hole Phishing

A watering hole attack is a targeted cyber attack that involves compromising websites frequented by a specific group of users to distribute malware or steal sensitive information. This type of attack derives its name from predatory behaviour: predators lie in wait near watering holes frequented by their prey. Similarly, attackers identify websites regularly visited by their target demographic and exploit vulnerabilities in these sites to infect visitors with malware or deploy phishing techniques.

Example: China-based threat actor APT TA423, also known as Red Ladon, executed a watering hole attack targeting Australian organisations and offshore energy firms in the South China Sea. The attack began with phishing emails and leveraged SEO to promote malicious websites. Using the ScanBox reconnaissance framework, the compromised sites acted as keyloggers, capturing users’ keystrokes without needing to deploy malware to their devices. 

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Evil Twin Attack

An Evil Twin attack is a type of wireless network attack in which an attacker creates a rogue Wi-Fi access point with the same name (SSID) and characteristics as a legitimate one. This deceptive tactic tricks users into connecting to the rogue access point instead of the legitimate one, allowing the attacker to intercept sensitive information or launch further attacks.

Example: At the RSA Conference, journalists set up a fake Wi-Fi Access Point (AP) using an evil twin attack to assess attendee behaviour. They broadcasted eight common SSID names and tricked 4,499 Wi-Fi clients into connecting to their rogue AP. Although no personal data was compromised, the experiment demonstrated how easily cyber attackers can exploit public Wi-Fi networks.

Social Media Phishing

Social media phishing is a type of cyber attack that leverages popular social networking platforms to deceive users into divulging personal information, login credentials, or financial details. Attackers exploit the inherent trust and familiarity associated with social media platforms to trick users into clicking on malicious links, downloading harmful content, or providing sensitive information.

Example: Between 2013 and 2015, a phishing campaign exploited Facebook and Google’s relationship with their Taiwanese supplier, Quanta. Attackers posing as Quanta sent fake invoices through social media channels and email. The convincing invoices led Facebook and Google to transfer $100 million to the attackers unknowingly.

Website Spoofing

Website spoofing involves creating a fraudulent website that mimics the appearance and functionality of a legitimate one. These fake websites are designed to deceive visitors into entering sensitive information, such as login credentials, personal details, or financial information.

Example: Attackers created a fake Amazon website that closely resembled the real Amazon.com but with a different URL. Despite the different web address, the fake site replicated all other details, including fonts and images, making it look legitimate. The attackers aimed to trick users into entering their usernames and passwords.

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Domain Spoofing

Domain spoofing involves forging the sender’s email address to make it appear as if the email originated from a trusted domain or organisation. Attackers use this technique to deceive recipients into believing that the email is legitimate and from a reputable source.

Example: In early 2021, Penta Bank, a German business banking provider, fell victim to domain spoofing. Cybercriminals registered the domain GetPenta-Bank.com, closely resembling Penta Bank’s legitimate domain, getpenta.com. Despite the fraudulent website’s obvious differences, it posed a threat by attempting to collect customer login data. Recognising the potential risk, Penta Bank promptly alerted its customers to prevent any compromise of sensitive information.

Search Engine Phishing

Search engine phishing involves manipulating search engine results to trick users into visiting malicious websites or downloading harmful content. Attackers exploit search engine algorithms to promote fraudulent websites or content that mimics legitimate sources, such as search results for software downloads, product purchases, or technical support.

Example: In 2020, Google reported 25 billion spam pages daily. One such scam involved hackers posing as the travel company Booking.com. They created fake ads that appeared in users’ search results, mimicking the real Booking.com ads in appearance and wording. When users clicked on the ad, they were directed to a bogus site and prompted to enter their sensitive login information, which was then stolen by the hackers.

Also read: How To Recognise And Avoid Phishing Attacks?


In the face of these ever-present dangers, it’s essential to remain vigilant and informed. By understanding the various types of phishing attacks and the methods used by attackers, individuals and organisations can better protect themselves against these threats. From implementing robust cybersecurity measures to educating employees and users, proactive steps can be taken to mitigate the risk of falling victim to phishing scams.

Take action today to safeguard your digital assets and personal information. Stay updated on the latest cybersecurity trends and best practices. Invest in reliable security awareness training and educate yourself and your team about the red flags of phishing attacks. Remember, when it comes to cybersecurity, vigilance is key. Together, we can build a safer online environment for everyone.



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