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Understanding Cybersecurity: Spotting the 3 Major Types of Phishing Emails

Understanding Cybersecurity: Spotting the 3 Major Types of Phishing Emails

The digital era has brought immeasurable convenience and powerful capabilities at our fingertips. Unfortunately, it has also opened up a Pandora's Box of vulnerabilities that cybercriminals are all too eager to exploit. One of the most common methods employed by these cybercriminals is phishing. This blog post seeks to unravel the concept of phishing, with a specific focus on the '3 types of phishing emails'.


Phishing is a form of cybercrime where targets are lured into sharing sensitive data, such as personal information, banking and credit card details, and passwords. This feat is achieved through deceptive e-mails that appear genuine and come from trusted sources. The objective of this post is to create a nuanced understanding of phishing emails by identifying and detailing the 3 major types.

Spear Phishing

The first type of phishing email we’ll talk about is spear phishing. Spear phishing is a more targeted type of phishing, where the attackers have taken the time to research their victims, customizing their attack emails with the target’s name, position, company, work phone number, and other information, making the spear phishing attempt feel more sanguine and legitimate.

The email may seem to originate from a more 'personal' source, like a colleague or superior within your organization. It might ask you for sensitive information or lure you into clicking a link that deploys malware into your system. Being aware of such targeted attacks is crucial, as these are often more successful than regular mass phishing campaigns due to their perceived authenticity.


The second type of phishing email is whaling. A subtype of spear phishing, whaling is a digital attack on high-profile targets like CEOs, CFOs, and other executives. These individuals usually have access to critical business information that can be lucrative in the wrong hands.

Whaling phishing emails often mimic senior executive email accounts, government agencies, or even law enforcement. Because they appear to be directly related to critical business operations, they can be more deceptive and damaging. Whaling attacks can manipulate the target into providing confidential information or performing money transfers and can result in significant financial losses or breach of corporate security.

Clone Phishing

The third type of phishing we’ll talk about is clone phishing. Clone phishing involves the imitation or cloning of previously delivered but legitimate emails with replaced links or attachments. The perceived familiarity of the email content and source enhances the victims' susceptibility to the scam.

The email appears to be a resend or an update of the previous email, but with malicious links or attachments that infect your system with malware, provide sensitive data, or prompt credentials upon clicking. Awareness and careful scrutiny of all received emails, even those from known contacts, are crucial jump-off points in safeguarding one's self from clone phishing.


In conclusion, the threat of phishing is continuous and requires constant vigilance. Recognising the '3 types of phishing emails,' namely spear phishing, whaling, and clone phishing, enables individuals and businesses to be more judicious about their online interactions. Recognising the signatures of these cyber-attacks and fostering a culture of alertness can significantly diminish the risk. However, it's not just about recognising these attacks - it's also about responding to them correctly. Immediately reporting such instances to your IT department or to the appropriate cybercrime unit can make the digital world just a little bit safer.