Social engineering is the technique of employing psychological methods and communication skills, generally by competitors and adversaries, to gather information about their competition or potential targets. However, with the advent of technology, sophistication has increased too. Modern-day phishing exercises are elaborate and require a concerted effort by security teams to create a firewall against them. Falling into phishing traps often leads the organization to catastrophic consequences. These activities are generally directed towards disrupting the network by planting malware or stealing information for future misuse.

(Graph Source – Digital Information World)


2021 has shown an upward swing in the number of phishing incidents, which has become a worrisome trend for IT Security Managers. There had been a dip in phishing activities towards the end of the last year, mainly due to anti-phishing solutions used against such attempts.


2021 Phishing Trends You Need To Be Wary Of

Here are the main phishing trends of this year that enterprises must seriously consider to strengthen their safeguards accordingly.

Government Impersonators

While there have always been attempts to impersonate government departments and officials, 2021 will see a jump in the percentage. It is because of the pandemic and the overall health crisis engulfing the planet. National governments are sending out more and more advisories to citizens and organizations concerning the pandemic.

Impersonators will pose as government authorities and ask for personal details about health records and financial information. COVID has provided them with a shield to approach vulnerable communities and ask for information in return for assistance.

COVID Donation

The pandemic has provided the scammers with a golden opportunity to ask for donations. There have been plenty of instances whereby fake organizations have approached individuals and organizations requesting assistance to help those who cannot foot the medical bills. These websites are perfect examples of phishing. They record users’ keystrokes and steal personal details, and misuse them. To counter such nefarious designs, organizations must have anti-phishing and anti-ransomware solutions in place.

Cloud Breaches

While cloud computing does provide enterprises with added facilities for ease of usage, the security aspect of the entire environment is still in the nascent stages. The malicious actors take advantage of several vulnerabilities. Moreover, access control in some cloud environments is still not at par with what most organizations prefer. Hence, it becomes a nightmare for IT Security teams to provide security to proprietary information. But as technology marches forward, cloud computing will acquire distinct characteristics with added layers of safety.

Lack Of Awareness

One of the most significant obstacles to network security is the clumsy attitude most organizations have towards data security. From the smallest of businesses to the largest corporations, every entity is guilty of overlooking IT Security to some extent. Securing data is an expensive process that also requires a great deal of focus and diligence. Compromising it is not something any organization can afford.

Many organizations are also guilty of providing a mere cursory glance towards spreading awareness amongst their staff, who ultimately become victims of phishing acts. Protecting one’s employees from falling prey to such acts is the responsibility of the organization. What most enterprises do is spend on anti-malware and email phishing protection tools and leave it at that. Organizations must aim to create adequate levels of awareness in employees to ensure they don’t fall victim to phishing attacks.

Ransomware Attacks

Ransomware attacks have increased tremendously in the last few years. These attacks infect networks and distribution systems of organizations by planting malware for disruption. Most ransomware attacks happen through phishing emails, which are innocuous-looking information but nefarious in their objectives. At times, even the best phishing protection fails to stop such emails from reaching their intended targets.

The ideal way to counter them is usually three-pronged: Employee awareness and training, continuous monitoring of network traffic, and deploying the best anti-malware solutions. There are numerous phishing email examples across domains that one can use for training purposes.

Spear Phishing

Spear phishing is the targeted form of phishing aimed at specific entities or individuals.  In one of its forms, the scammers target the head of facilities or the senior-most person to access secret information. Impersonation of a CEO or individuals who generally have access to every piece of knowledge of the organization has many benefits for the adversaries.

More often than not, scammers get access to information that usually would have been tightly held. One of the major premises of social engineering is playing with the minds of individuals. Malicious actors research thoroughly about their intended targets before approaching them.

Backdoor And Trojans

As the recent Office 365 scam had amply demonstrated, no tool or software is safe from illegal backdoor entries. With remote work becoming the norm of the day due to the rampaging virus, scammers have started impersonating IT departments and approaching workers, asking them to hand over login credentials. They have also been exploiting software vulnerabilities to gain illegal entry into the enterprise systems.


How To Stop Phishing Emails?

As mentioned in the list above, the trend for 2021 looks ominous, and if organizations do not take serious action, it will probably be too late and disastrous. Besides investing in the best phishing protection tools, providing training to the staff is a major task. IT Security teams must continually and optimally monitor systems for network traffic as there will always be loopholes that malicious actors will use for their benefit. One has to keep evolving with technology to maintain a secure environment for their organization.


Final Words

Phishing is one of the major challenges in the online world of the twenty-first century, and it is getting complex by the day. To face this menace, organizations will have to focus on sharing information and pour in funds to create walls around their data. Without a concerted effort, it will be challenging to address the threat of phishing, let alone eradicate it.