MDaemon Technologies Blog

Unveiling Pretexting: The New Face of Phishing

By Brad Wyro

Discover the latest technique cybercriminals use to deceive victims and gain unauthorized access to sensitive information.

Understanding the concept of pretexting

Have you ever felt so comfortable that you simply go with the flow and make decisions without much thought? If so, you're likely an easy victim for pretexting scammers.

Pretexting is a deceptive technique used by cybercriminals to trick individuals into divulging sensitive information. It involves creating a false pretext or scenario to gain the trust of the victim. The attacker often poses as a trustworthy individual or organization, such as a bank representative or a colleague, to manipulate the victim into providing personal or confidential data.

By understanding the concept of pretexting, individuals can become more aware of the tactics used by cybercriminals and take necessary precautions to protect themselves.

Pretexting vs traditional phishing

While traditional phishing involves sending mass emails to a large number of people in the hopes of tricking a few into revealing their sensitive information, pretexting takes a more targeted approach. Pretexting attackers carefully research their victims, gathering information from various sources like social media or public records, to create a convincing scenario that is tailored to the victim's interests or needs.

Unlike traditional phishing, which relies on the victim clicking on a malicious link or downloading a file, pretexting often involves direct communication with the victim, either through phone calls, emails, or in-person interactions. This personal touch makes pretexting attacks more sophisticated and difficult to detect.

How pretexting works

Pretexting attacks typically follow a specific process. First, the attacker selects a target and gathers information about them. This information can include personal details, work history, or even the names of friends or family members. With this information in hand, the attacker then creates a plausible scenario that will convince the victim to divulge sensitive information.

For example, an attacker may pose as a bank representative and contact the victim, claiming that there has been suspicious activity on their account. They will then ask the victim to verify their account details or provide additional information to resolve the issue. The victim, believing they are speaking to a legitimate bank representative, may unknowingly provide the attacker with their login credentials or other sensitive data.

Business Email Compromise phishing example

Pretexting attacks can also involve impersonating a trusted individual or organization to manipulate the victim into performing certain actions. This can include requesting wire transfers, changing passwords, or even installing malware on their device.

Common scenarios of pretexting attacks

There are several common scenarios in which pretexting attacks occur. One example is when an attacker poses as an IT support technician and contacts an employee, claiming there is an issue with their computer or network. The attacker may then request the employee's login credentials or ask them to download and install malicious software under the guise of fixing the problem.

Pretexting phishing email example

Another common scenario is when an attacker impersonates a company executive or a high-ranking official and contacts an employee, requesting sensitive company information or access to secure systems. The attacker may use various tactics, such as urgency or authority, to manipulate the employee into complying with their requests.

As you may have guessed by now, pretexting uses many similar techniques to those found in Business Email Compromise (BEC) or CEO fraud phishing attacks, which I've discussed in this article.

It is important to be cautious and verify the legitimacy of any requests for sensitive information, especially when they come from unexpected or unfamiliar sources.

Protecting yourself against pretexting

Protecting yourself against pretexting attacks requires a combination of awareness and caution. Here are some measures you can take to minimize the risk:

- Be cautious of unsolicited requests for personal or sensitive information, especially if they come from unfamiliar sources.

- Verify the identity of individuals or organizations before providing any information or performing any actions.

- Limit the amount of personal information you share on social media platforms or public records.

- Keep your computer and mobile devices updated with the latest security patches and antivirus software.

- Educate yourself and your employees about the tactics used in pretexting attacks and how to recognize and report them.

By being vigilant and proactive, you can significantly reduce the chances of falling victim to pretexting attacks.

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Tags: Email Security, Phishing

Brad Wyro

Written by Brad Wyro

Brad has worked in technical and marketing roles at MDaemon Technologies, where he contributes as Content Marketing Manager. Brad balances technical and creative information to develop easy to understand videos and content to educate prospects and customers.


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