Here's a small sample of popular phishing emails we've seen over the years. As you can see there are many different approaches cybercriminals will take and they are always evolving.

While it would be virtually impossible to keep a current and fully comprehensive archive of these examples, it's a really good idea to keep updated on what's out there to make phishing attacks less likely.

 

Classic Phishing Emails

Tech Support Scams

Over the past few years online service providers have been stepping up their security game by messaging customers when they detect unusual or worrisome activity on their users' accounts. Not surprisingly, the bad guys are using this to their advantage. Many are designed poorly with bad grammar, etc. but others look legitimate enough for someone to click if they weren't paying close attention:

Consider this fake Paypal security notice warning potential marks of "unusual log in activity" on their accounts:

Paypal Phishing Security Notice

Hovering over the links would be enough to stop you from ending up on a credentials stealing web site.

And here's a fake Microsoft notice, almost identical in appearance to an actual notice from Microsoft concerning "Unusual sign-in activity":

Malicious Windows Warning Email


This email points users to a phony 1-800 number instead of kicking users to a credentials phish.

Infected Attachments

The Hidden Dangers of .HTML Attachments

Malicious .HTML attachments aren't seen as often as .JS or .DOC file attachments, but they are desirable for a couple of reasons. First, there is a low chance of antivirus detection since .HTML files are not commonly associated with email-borne attacks. Second, .HTML attachments are commonly used by banks and other financial institutions so people are used to seeing them in their inboxes. Here are a few examples of credential phishes we've seen using this attack vector:

 

Google Credentials Phish

Fake Adobe Login

Macros With Payloads

Malicious macros in phishing emails have become an increasingly common way of delivering ransomware in the past year. These documents too often get past anti-virus programs with no problem. The phishing emails contain a sense of urgency for the recipient and as you can see in the below screenshot, the documents step users through the process. If users fail to enable the macros, the attack is unsuccessful.

Macro Warning Screenshot

 

Social Media Exploits

Malicious Facebook Messages

Several Facebook users received messages in their Messenger accounts from other users already familiar to them. The message consisted of a single .SVG (Scaleable Vector Graphic) image file which, notably, bypassed Facebook's file extensions filter. Users who clicked the file to open it were redirected to a spoofed Youtube page that prompted users to install two Chrome extensions allegedly needed to view the (non-existent) video on the page. 

              Malicious Facebook SVG Message                Spoofed YouTube Site

For most users, the two Chrome extensions were used to allow the malware a limited degree of self-propagation by exploiting the "browser's access to your Facebook account in order to secretly message all your Facebook friends with the same SVG image file."


On some users' PCs the embedded Javascript also downloaded and launched Nemucod [PDF], a trojan downloader with a long history of pulling down a wide variety of malicious payloads on compromised PCs. Users unlucky enough to encounter this version of the malicious script saw their PCs being taken hostage by Locky ransomware.

LinkedIn Phishing Attacks

LinkedIn has been the focus of online scams and phishing attacks for a number of years now, primarily because of the wealth of data it offers on employees at corporations. Malicious actors mine that data to identify potential marks for business email compromise attacks, including wire transfer and W-2 social engineering scams, as well as a number of other creative ruses. Here are some examples we've seen through KnowBe4's Phish Alert Button:

In one case a user reported receiving a standard Wells Fargo credentials phish through LinkedIn's InMail:

LinkedIn InMail Phish
Note that this particular InMail appears to have originated from a fake Wells Fargo account. The supplied link leads to a fairly typical credentials phish (hosted on a malicious domain since taken down):

Wells Fargo LinkedIn Phishing Scam
It looks like the bad guys set up a fake Wells Fargo profile in an attempt to appear more authentic.


Another similar phish was delivered to an email account outside of LinkedIn:

LinkedIn Email Phish Screenshot

This email was delivered through LinkedIn, as did the URLs used for the several links included in the footer of this email ("Reply," "Not interested," "View Wells's LinkedIn profile"):

Wells Fargo LinkedIn Phishing Email Screenshot
Those URLs were obviously auto-generated by LinkedIn itself when the malicious actors used LinkedIn's messaging features to generate this phish, which hit the external email account of the mark (as opposed to his InMail box, as was the case in the first phish discussed above).

 

CEO Fraud Scams

Here's an example of a KnowBe4 customer being a target for CEO fraud. The employee initially responded, then remembered her training and instead reported the email using the Phish Alert Button, alerting her IT department to the fraud attempt.

When the employee failed to proceed with the wire transfer, she got another email from the bad guys, who probably thought it was payday:

CEO Fraud Phishing

 

Related Pages: Phishing Techniques, Common Phishing Scams, What Is Phishing