Phishing attacks are harder to spot on your smartphone. That’s why hackers use them more often

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There has been an increase in mobile phishing attacks targeting the energy sector as cyber attackers attempt to break into networks used to provide services such as electricity and gas.

The energy industry is extremely critical as it provides people with vital services for everyday use. This role makes it a prime target for cyber criminals.

That risk was demonstrated earlier this year when the Colonial Pipeline was hit by a ransomware attack that caused gasoline shortages across the eastern United States. Colonial ended up paying cybercriminals nearly $ 5 million for a decryption key to restore the network.

SEE: A successful cybersecurity strategy (ZDNet special report)

And cyber criminals are not the only ones interested in breaking into the networks of energy providers; They are also a primary target for nation-state-backed hacking groups for whom breaking into a network could be a path to significant disruption.

The desire to break into these networks has led to a surge in phishing attacks against the energy sector, particularly cyberattacks targeting mobile devices, warns a report from cybersecurity researchers at Lookout.

According to the paper, there has been a 161% increase in mobile phishing attacks targeting the energy sector since the second half of last year. Attacks on energy companies account for 17% of all mobile attacks worldwide, making them the most vulnerable sector, ahead of finance, government, pharmaceuticals and manufacturing.

“The energy industry is directly related to the well-being and security of citizens worldwide,” Stephen Banda, senior manager for security solutions at Lookout, told ZDNet.

Remote working has grown significantly in the past 18 months. And while the rise of mobile working has allowed companies to keep working, the increased use of personal devices and remote working has also increased security risks – 41% of mobile devices in the energy industry are not managed by employers, according to Lookout.

This situation could put users at risk from cyberattacks such as phishing and malware that could be used to gain access to larger networks. The attacker’s goal is to steal user names and passwords that could be used to gain access to cloud services and other parts of the network.

SEE: Ransomware: It’s a “golden era” for cybercriminals – and it could get worse before it gets better

Customizing phishing emails to mobile devices can make them more difficult to detect, as the smaller screen provides fewer opportunities to verify the legitimacy of links in messages, while smartphones and tablets may not be as comprehensive as laptops and desktops. PCs are protected, which is a useful means for attackers to try to compromise networks.

“Threat actors know that mobile devices are typically not secured in the same way as computers. Because of this, mobile phishing has become one of the most important ways for threat actors to break into corporate infrastructure, ”said Banda.

“By launching phishing attacks that mimic the context expected by the recipient, attackers can redirect a user to a fake web page that impersonates a known application login page.

Cyber ​​criminals are likely to continue targeting mobile devices when companies adopt hybrid work practices. Therefore, the researchers emphasize the importance of smartphones and tablets as part of the overall cybersecurity strategy by ensuring that the operating systems they run on are up to date and that they are using software to protect against phishing, malware, and other cyberattacks.

“Most attacks start with phishing, and mobile offers a variety of attack paths. An anti-phishing solution must block all communications from known phishing sites on mobile devices – including SMS, apps, social platforms and email, ”said Banda.

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