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Over 90 Percent of Targeted Attacks Derived from Spear Phishing Emails, According to Trend Micro

New threat research released by Trend Micro gives empirical evidence that an aggressive breed of phishing attacks is well underway; more than ever, companies need better threat detection capability and superior "custom" defenses when it comes to their ema

CUPERTINO, Calif., Nov. 28, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- In its analysis of targeted attack data collected between February and September this year, global cloud security leader Trend Micro (TYO: 4704;TSE: 4704) found that 91 percent of targeted attacks involved spear phishing. This finding reinforces the company's stance that these attacks often begin at a very simple point of contact – an email message that is cleverly crafted to entice a specific individual to either open a malicious file attachment or to click a link to a malware- or an exploit-laden site, starting a compromise within the victim's network. Spear phishing – coined as a direct analogue to spearfishing – is a new breed of highly targeted phishing that makes the use of information about a target to make attacks more specific and "personal" to the target. Spear phishing emails, for instance, may refer to their targets by their specific name, rank, or position instead of using generic titles as in broader phishing campaigns.

According to the report, "Spear Phishing Email: Most Favored APT Attack Bait," 94 percent of targeted emails use malicious file attachments as the payload or infection source. The remaining 6 six percent use alternative methods such as installing malware through malicious links that download malicious files. The reason for this huge discrepancy is straightforward:  Employees in large companies or government organizations normally share files (e.g., reports, business documents, and resumes) via email since downloading materials straight off the Internet is regarded as insecure.

Notable highlights from the report:

  • The most commonly used and shared file types accounted for 70 percent of the total number of spear phishing email attachments during the monitored time period.  The main file types were: .RTF (38 percent), .XLS (15 percent), and .ZIP (13 percent). Alternatively, executable (.EXE) files were not as popular among cybercriminals, most likely because emails with .EXE file attachments are usually detected and blocked by security solutions.
  • The most highly targeted industries are government and activist groups.  Extensive information about government agencies and appointed officials are readily found on the Internet and often posted on public government websites.  Activist groups, highly active in social media, are also quick to provide member information in order to facilitate communication, organize campaigns or recruit new members. These habits elevate member profiles, making them visible targets.
  • As a result, three out of four of the targeted victims email addresses are easily found through web searches or using common email address formats. 

Trend Micro offers the most comprehensive, "first line of defense" email security against spear phishing attacks

Based on Trend Micro's on-going research surrounding APTs (advanced persistent threats), organizations must be able to detect and block spear phishing attempts as its first line of defense against targeted attacks. As part of its Custom Defense against APTs launch in October, Trend Micro bolstered its suite of email security solutions to not only stop traditional threats, but also to identify highly targeted, acute email attacks. By integrating with the new Trend Micro™ Deep Discovery hardware appliance, a solution that delivers network-wide threat detection, custom sandboxing, and advanced threat analysis into a single platform, Trend Micro provides leading capabilities in both traditional filtering and specialized threat detection in a single email security layer.

Unlike standard email security solutions that are unlikely to detect spear phishing emails associated with APTs, Trend Micro's email security products automatically send suspicious attachments to Deep Discovery for analysis in customer-defined sandboxes and blocks spear phishing emails in-line. Beyond email threat detection and protection, Deep Discovery automatically issues custom security updates to other security layers throughout the organization's network. Moreover, it correlates local findings with Trend Micro's global threat intelligence to help security departments fight back against their attackers – offering detailed information about the specific attack and the attackers: the nature and extent of the attack, and who is behind it. This custom insight enables organizations to better respond and protect against further attack.

Trend Micro's email security products that are equipped with spear phishing protection include:

The full report, "Spear Phishing Email: Most Favored APT Attack Bait," is available here:

About Trend Micro

Trend Micro Incorporated (TYO: 4704;TSE: 4704), a global cloud security leader, creates a world safe for exchanging digital information with its Internet content security and threat management solutions for businesses and consumers.  A pioneer in server security with over 20 years' experience, we deliver top-ranked client, server and cloud-based security that fits our customers' and partners' needs, stops new threats faster, and protects data in physical, virtualized and cloud environments. Powered by the industry-leading Trend Micro™ Smart Protection Network™ cloud computing security infrastructure, our products and services stop threats where they emerge – from the Internet. They are supported by 1,000+ threat intelligence experts around the globe. 

Additional information about Trend Micro Incorporated and the products and services are available at Trend This Trend Micro news release and other announcements are available at  and as part of an RSS feed at   Or follow our news on Twitter at @TrendMicro.


SOURCE Trend Micro Incorporated

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