Trap phishing is one of the most valuable intelligence-gathering tools cyber criminals have at their disposal. Hackers routinely send out emails, phone calls, and messages to trick the recipients into handing over personal information, clicking on a web link,or downloading a malicious attachment and infecting their device.

These trap phishing attacks, more commonly referred to as phishing scams, are one of the most significant cyber threats modern organizations face, with research showing that 83% of organizations experienced a successful email-based phishing attack in 2021.

This article will take an in-depth look at trap phishing, what types there are, and provide insight into how security leaders can best equip employees to spot and report trap phishing attempts when they encounter them.

What is trap phishing and how is it different from phishing?

Trap phishing is a term used to describe phishing attempts that try to trap or trick the user into downloading malware or clicking on a link to malware.

These emails impersonate well-known brands and use high-pressure tactics to convince users to hand over information, make a payment, or login to a phishing site to ‘update their account details’ so the hacker can steal their login credentials.

Phishing attempts aren’t always to spot either. Attackers go out of there way to replicate the branding of popular companies like Microsoft and other trusted organizations so that they can exploit the victims’ trust.

Trap phishing is very popular among cyber criminals because it only needs a single user to click on or download a malicious attachment to provide an entry point to an entire network.

Types of Trap Phishing

Trap phishing comes in a number of different forms that everyone must be prepared to identify and avoid. These include:

1. Email phishing

An attacker will send a victim an email with a high sense of urgency, instructing them to update personal information, verify account details, or change a password.

2. Content injection

In a content injection attack, a cyber criminal will inject a familiar-looking webpage, such as an email account login page or online banking page with a malicious link, form, or pop-up.

3. CEO Fraud

This type of threat involves a fraudster impersonating an executive, such as the CEO or CFO, and sending emails to employees requesting that they transfer funds or provide sensitive information. The latter can lead to the hacker committing future crimes.

4. Spear phishing

During a spear phishing attack, a criminal will conduct thorough research on an individual or organization online, and craft personalized messages designed to trick them into giving up sensitive information.

5. Vishing

Voice phishing or vishing attacks are where a fraudster phones the victim and leaves a strong voice that urges the recipient to call another phone number. Common vishing tactics include telling a potential victim they need to update their bank account or tax details so they can pressure them into divulging this information.

How to Spot a Trap Phishing Email

Spotting trap phishing emails can be difficult because attackers will go out of there way not to raise any red flags. They often accomplish this by impersonating the branding of recognizable organizations to exploit the recipient’s trust.

However, there are some simple ways you can investigate potential trap phishing emails. First, check the email address and see if it matches the name of the sender and if there’s anything suspicious about it (does the URL match a known internal or external company web address?).

Another giveaway is if the email begins with “dear client,” dear customer”, or “dear valued customer,” as this shows it’s a generic communication rather than an email addressed directly to you, which could indicate a cyber criminal is trying to manipulate you with a “spray and pray” phishing campaign.

You should also note if the email employs a sense of urgency and puts pressure on you to take action quickly. If you feel pressured to update your login credentials on a website or provide personal or financial information under tight time constraints, then it’s likely to be a scam.

How to prevent trap phishing threats

While phishing threats can be tricky to defend against, there are some simple steps that organizations can take to drastically improve their security awareness and decrease the risk of data breaches. These include:

1. Educate employees about phishing threats

It’s important to educate employees about the reality of phishing threats by providing them with real-world phishing simulation tools to help educate them on how to identify phishing risks when they encounter them.

2. Use proved security awareness training

Deploy proven security awareness training and phishing simulation platforms to keep phishing and social engineering risks top of mind. You can support this further by creating internal cyber security heroes committed to keeping your organization cyber secure.

3. Monitor employee phishing awareness

Remind security leaders and cyber security ambassadors to monitor employee phishing awareness with phishing simulations. They can also use phishing micro learning modules to educate, train, and change the behavior of employees.

4. Provide ongoing communication campaigns

Provide employees with ongoing communication and campaigns about cyber security and phishing. This includes guidance on how to select strong passwords and reminding employees about the risks of attachments, emails, and URLs.

5. Implement network access rules

Establish network access roles to restrict the user of personal devices in the environment and to implement controls into how information is shared outside of your corporate network.

6. Update devices and infrastructure

Ensure all applications, operating systems, network tools and software are up-to-date and ready so there’s no vulnerabilities. Install malware protection and anti-spam software to aid threat detection.


Don’t underestimate how cunning a skilled cyber criminal can be. Organizations that fail to teach employees about the dangers of automatic trust, and of being willing to click on links and attachments from unknown senders, can run into trouble regarding data breaches and compliance violations.

By providing employees with regular training opportunities supported by phishing simulations, enterprises can ensure reduced risk when it comes to compromising confidential information.



Want to find out how security awareness training can help you defend against trap phishing?

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