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The 5 Most Common Phishing Techniques of 2023 and How to Prevent Them (With 2024 Forecast)

Larkin Anders

In 2023, we’ve seen phishing attacks continue to be a formidable threat. With their constant evolution of tricks and tactics, these techniques grow more sophisticated and deceptive, targeting organizations across various sectors and unsuspecting individuals. This evolving threat landscape makes it imperative for us to understand the various types of phishing attacks and effectively counter these tactics.

Staying informed about the various types of phishing attacks and their methods is crucial for combating current threats and preparing ourselves for what 2024 might have in store. So, let’s dive into the most prevalent phishing techniques of the year and explore strategies to safeguard against them.

Email Phishing

Despite the emergence of new tactics, email phishing remains one of the most prevalent forms of phishing attacks in 2023. This classic technique, leveraging deception and manipulation,  involves sending deceptive emails that appear to come from legitimate sources, such as well-known companies or trusted contacts, to trick recipients into revealing sensitive information, such as login credentials or bank account information, or installing malware.

Email Phishing Techniques

Phishing attacks often contain tactics such as brand knockoffs, creating emails that resemble those from well-known companies, and capitalizing on the trust and recognition of these brands. Another common tactic is urgency: these emails often convey a false sense of immediate action required, prompting the recipient to respond hastily and without due diligence. This sense of urgency is frequently combined with alarming messages to further compel recipients into taking unwarranted actions. Emotional manipulation is also common, with emails designed to evoke curiosity or a sense of obligation, thereby bypassing rational judgment. 

Defending Against Email Phishing

To defend against these phishing attacks, it’s crucial to approach every unsolicited email cautiously. Checking the sender’s details for authenticity, being wary of emails with urgent or threatening tones, and avoiding clicking links or downloading attachments from unknown sources are key preventative measures. Additionally, regularly updating security software can help patch vulnerabilities in systems that attackers look to exploit.

However, the most crucial defense lies in employees' continuous education and training. Recognizing the signs of a phishing attack and knowing the appropriate response plays a significant role in mitigating these risks. As email phishing techniques become more sophisticated, our defenses must evolve, too, ensuring we stay ahead regarding these cyber threats. 

Spear Phishing

Spear phishing is a type of phishing scam that represents a more target and insidious evolution of the traditional phishing attack, and its prevalence in 2023 has only heightened its threat to individuals and organizations. Unlike broad-scale phishing, which casts a wide net to trap as many victims as possible, spear phishing is characterized by its precision and personalization. Attackers conducting these campaigns invest time gathering personal or organizational information about their target, often through social media, public records, or previous data breaches. This gathered intelligence is then used to craft compelling emails that appear to be from trusted sources - perhaps a colleague, superior, or well-known business partner.

The goal of a spear phishing attack is often more ambitious than simple data theft; it may aim to gain access to secure systems and distribute malware or other malicious threats.

Spear Phishing Techniques

Spear phishing attacks in 2023 have reached new heights of sophistication, combining advanced technology with psychological manipulation. Central to these attacks is social engineering, where attackers often pose as trusted colleagues or authority figures to gain confidential information. These emails are highly personalized, using specific details about the target, like their name and job title, making Business Email Compromise (BEC) a prevalent tactic. In BEC, attackers impersonate high-level executives to request sensitive actions, such as wire transfers. These emails also oftentimes conceal malware or ransomware in seemingly legitimate attachments or links and sometimes aim to harvest credentials by directing victims to fake login pages.

The success of a spear phishing attack stems from its blend of technical intricacy and the ability to bypass standard security measures by exploiting human psychology.

Defending Against Spear Phishing

Defending against the nuanced threat of a spear phishing attack demands a layered and comprehensive approach.

On the technical front, implementing advanced email filters is crucial, as these systems can detect and block phishing attempts before they reach an employee's inbox. Additionally, deploying anti-malware and antivirus software provides another line of defense, protecting systems from malicious payloads that might be delivered via spear phishing emails. Maintaining this software and other systems with the latest updates is vital to close off potential vulnerabilities that could be exploited in phishing attacks.

However, technology alone isn’t sufficient to thwart these sophisticated phishing attacks. The most critical component of defense lies in employee education and training. Regular training sessions should be conducted to educate staff about the latest tactics and how to recognize them, including practical experience from simulated phishing training


Vishing, short for "voice phishing," is a deceptive technique that has gained prominence in 2023. It involves the use of telephone calls instead of emails to trick individuals into divulging sensitive information or performing specific actions. In vishing, attackers often pose as representatives from legitimate companies, government agencies, or other trustworthy entities. They leverage the sense of urgency and authenticity that a phone call can convey to manipulate victims into sharing personal details, financial information, or login credentials.

Unlike email phishing, which can often be spotted through textual cues, vishing exploits the immediacy and often unguarded nature of verbal communication, making it a particularly insidious form of social engineering.

Vishing Techniques

In vishing attacks, perpetrators employ several cunning techniques to manipulate their victims. They often use caller ID spoofing to make their phone number appear legitimate, mirroring the numbers of recognized organizations or local authorities. Attackers typically script their calls to sound urgent and convincing, pressuring the victim to act quickly without questioning the authenticity of the request. They might claim to be addressing a security breach, verifying account information, or offering help with technical issues. Sometimes, attackers use background noises or mimic office environments to enhance the call's credibility.

Defending against Vishing

Defending against vishing requires both caution and awareness. A key strategy is to be wary of unsolicited calls asking for personal or financial information. It's important to remember that legitimate organizations usually do not request sensitive details over the phone. If you receive a suspicious call, do not hesitate to hang up and independently verify the caller's identity by contacting the organization directly through official channels. Be cautious with caller ID, as it can be spoofed, and avoid providing any information or making decisions under pressure.

Continuous education for yourself and your employees about the nature of vishing calls and the common tactics attackers use is also crucial. By remaining vigilant and skeptical of unexpected phone calls, especially those that create a sense of urgency or fear, you can effectively reduce the risk of falling victim to a vishing attack.


Smishing, or SMS phishing, is a combination of "SMS" and "phishing," and has emerged as a significant cybersecurity threat. This technique involves sending text messages to individuals designed to deceive them into divulging sensitive information or clicking on malicious links. Unlike an email phishing attack, smishing takes advantage of the widespread use of smartphones and the tendency for individuals to trust text messages more than emails.

These phishing messages often impersonate reputable organizations, financial institutions, or government agencies and use urgent or enticing language to provoke immediate action. Smishing exploits the less guarded nature of text messaging, making it a potent and increasingly common vector for cyberattacks.

Smishing Techniques

In smishing attacks, attackers employ various techniques to trick their targets effectively. Often, they craft messages with a sense of urgency or offer enticing rewards, prompting the recipient to act quickly. These messages might claim issues with bank accounts, problems with subscription services, or provide fake prizes or discounts. URL shortening services are commonly used to disguise malicious links, making it challenging for recipients to identify the link's true destination. Attackers also mimic the tone and style of legitimate businesses or institutions to enhance the message's credibility.

Attackers may also use personal information, like names or specific references, to make the message more tailored and convincing. By leveraging the personal and direct nature of text messaging, smishing attackers create scenarios that many individuals are likely to trust and respond to.

Defending against Smishing

Defending against smishing attacks hinges on a combination of vigilance and skepticism. It's crucial to be cautious with text messages that prompt you to click on a link, especially if they create a sense of urgency or offer something that seems too good to be true. Always verify the authenticity of any message that asks for personal information or action, even if it appears to come from a known entity or service provider. Avoid clicking on links from unknown or unverified sources, and be wary of shortened URLs, which can easily conceal the actual destination. If a message raises any doubts, contact the organization directly using a verified phone number or website rather than through the contact details provided in the text message. Staying educated about the common characteristics of smishing and regularly updating others on new tactics can also bolster your defenses against these deceptive attacks.


Malware, short for "malicious software," remains a pervasive threat in the cybersecurity landscape of 2023. It encompasses various software programs designed to infiltrate, damage, or disable computers and computer systems without the user's consent. Malware takes various forms, including viruses, worms, trojan horses, ransomware, and spyware, each with its unique method of attack and malicious intent. 

Malware is typically delivered through a malicious website, email attachments, or direct downloads and can be activated when a user clicks a malicious link or opens an infected file. Once installed, malware can steal sensitive data, disrupt operations, and compromise the overall security of the affected system, making it a formidable tool in the arsenal of cybercriminals.

Malware Techniques

Attackers deploy a range of sophisticated techniques to execute malware attacks. One common method is through phishing emails that contain malicious attachments or links disguised as legitimate documents or critical updates, which install malware upon being opened or clicked.

Social engineering tactics are also often used to trick users into installing malware, leveraging psychological manipulation to create scenarios where users voluntarily download what they believe is safe software. Attackers also exploit software vulnerabilities, particularly in outdated or unpatched systems, to inject malware. 

Additionally, malware can be spread through removable media like USB drives or through network connections, especially in targeted attacks against specific organizations. These varied techniques demonstrate the attackers' adaptability and persistence in finding new ways to infiltrate systems with malicious software.

Defending against Malware

Defending against malware requires a multifaceted approach focused on both prevention and readiness. It is crucial to ensure that all software, especially operating systems and antivirus programs, are regularly updated, as these updates often include patches for security vulnerabilities. Utilizing robust antivirus and anti-malware solutions provides an essential layer of defense, actively scanning for and removing malicious software. 

Additionally, practicing good digital hygiene, such as using strong, unique passwords and regularly backing up critical data, can mitigate the damage if malware does penetrate your defenses. And remember to avoid the use of unknown USB or flash drives, as these devices can be carriers of hidden malware.

2024 Forecast

Looking ahead to 2024, the cyberattack landscape is expected to evolve with increasing sophistication. Attackers' strategies and tactics will continue to grow, and technological advancement could also be reflected in these attacks, particularly with the integration of artificial intelligence (AI). AI's role in cyberattacks is anticipated to grow, leading to more personalized and complex phishing attacks.

The rise of remote work and the Internet of Things (loT) could also open new avenues for cyber attacks. Remote work environments often lack the robust security measures of traditional office settings, making them attractive targets. Similarly, the expanding network of loT devices presents numerous potential vulnerabilities, each a possible entry point for attackers.


In summary, 2024 is set to bring a range of cyber threats, from AI-driven attacks to increased targeted phishing attacks towards remote workers. This evolving landscape underscores the need for adaptive, proactive cybersecurity strategies to protect against these emerging threats.

So, as we brace for the complexities of the 2024 cyber threat landscape, the pivotal role of employee education and security awareness training becomes increasingly apparent. Cyberattacks are becoming more sophisticated and varied, and the first line of defense is often an informed and vigilant workforce. Regular security awareness training becomes essential in equipping employees with the knowledge and skills to recognize and respond to these phishing attacks.

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