As our lives become increasingly digitized, the threat of online fraud continues to loom large. One of the most common forms of online fraud is phishing, where hackers trick individuals into providing sensitive information such as login credentials, credit card details, or personal data. However, the latest trend in the world of cybercrime is the rise of Phishing-as-a-Service (PhaaS). According to CNBC's report, phishing attacks increased by 61% in six months (till October 2022). This spike was primarily due to the evolution of Phishing-as-a-Service, wherein cybercriminals can subscribe to or buy phishing packages for a fee.
In this blog post, we will explore what PhaaS is, how it works, and the threat it poses to businesses and individuals alike. We will also discuss some strategies that can help individuals and organizations protect themselves against this growing menace.
What is Phishing-as-a-Service?
Phishing-as-a-Service, or PHaaS, is an online pay-as-you-go service or business model run by cybercriminals to perform phishing attacks on target victims. Rather than carrying out the entire phishing attack from scratch and on their own, cybercriminals subscribe to a robust and comprehensive phishing attack package. Like DDoS-as-a-Service, Botnet-as-a-Service, and Ransomware-as-a-Service, Phishing-as-a-Service has also gained momentum, transforming cybercriminals into service providers.
It runs on the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) business model. Initially, PhaaS cybercriminal vendors advertised their services on the darknet. But nowadays, many such platforms and services try to find customers even on the regular surface web. Phishing-as-a-Service businesses have become so popular over the past few years that interested users can purchase phishing kits and perform phishing attacks with minimal expertise.
Researchers found that some vendors offer deals and Black Friday discounts. In an interview with Help Net Security, Immanuel Chavoya, Threat Detection Expert at SonicWall, warned enterprises about PhaaS-based attacks. He also highlighted the risk it posed to the organizations.
How does Phishing-as-a-Service (PhaaS) work?
Cybercriminals earn big money from this PhaaS business model. Using this crime-based revenue stream, anyone—novice or elite cybercriminals—can carry out professional attacks. PhaaS vendors advertise their services on the dark or surface web. Suppose a potential buyer (cybercriminal) is on the surface web. In that case, the advertisement will prompt them to redirect to the dark web. The service is sold or provided on the dark web. The phishing-as-a-service panel will include a complete kit with everything required to launch a successful phishing attack.
The PhaaS kits may contain email templates with legitimate company emails and names. These kits also have luring email links, attachments, and clickable items to trap the victims. Some premium phishing-as-a-service kits and services also include lists of potential targets. A lot of PhaaS vendors advertise this business model as a product. These online products are easy to use. Cybercriminals with little or no technical knowledge can run these types of online attack campaigns fairly easily.
How Phishing-as-a-Service poses a threat to an organization
The growing business is proof of the potential and capabilities of PhaaS platforms and products. Novice cybercriminals use PhaaS to target enterprise professionals and individuals to steal sensitive credentials. Such services also mean that anyone can become a cybercriminal.
According to the FBI's 2021 Internet Crime Report, phishing, in all its forms, is snowballing. There were 241,342 reported cases in 2020; that number jumped to 323,972 in 2021. Effective phishing emails have become a concern for enterprises. Any compromised target can lead cybercriminals to breach the enterprise systems.
Tips and best practices to protect against phishing-as-a-service attacks
Pay attention to the email sender and whether the email has formatting variations or patterns with spelling mistakes.
It is a good practice to investigate the links, click-here banners, image buttons, and luring coupons before approaching them.
Enterprises can train employees to spot phishing campaigns. Companies can use monthly or quarterly training programs through cybersecurity experts.
Enterprises should also implement anti-phishing software from reputable cybersecurity product vendors.
Another good practice is implementing ML-based PhaaS pattern recognition systems in enterprise network systems to filter out phishing campaigns.
Professionals and individuals must remain wary when emails ask for their details, credentials, or sensitive data. They should know the consequences of such mistakes.
Impose a policy that prohibits downloading email attachments from unknown sources.
Phishing-as-a-Service is a threat to both individuals and business professionals so it is important to ensure you are protected. Our experts assess your posture, find vulnerabilities or weaknesses, and suggest ways to rectify them. Our penetration testing suites can help you stay ahead of cybercriminals by strengthening your security perimeter. Contact the Packetlabs team today for a quote.