Cybercriminals used three new novel tactics such as misuse of web translation, image-only emails, and the insertion of special characters in phishing attacks during January 2023, a new report has shown.

While the overall volume of attacks using these tactics is currently low (each tactic accounts for less than 1 percent of attempted phishing attacks), they are widespread, affecting between 11 percent and 15 percent of organizations, often with multiple attacks, according to IT security firm Barracuda Networks.

“With cyberattacks rising rampantly in India in recent times, cybercriminals continue to develop their phishing approaches to trap unwary recipients and avoid being spotted and blocked. To defend your organization, one needs the latest AI-enhanced email protection that can effectively inspect the context, subject, sender, and more to determine whether a benign-looking email is in fact a well-disguised attack,” said Parag Khurana, Country Manager, Barracuda Networks India.

The first tactic involves using Google Translate web links.

The attackers use poorly-formed HTML pages or a non-supported language to prevent Google from translating the webpage. Google responds by providing a link to the original URL stating that it cannot translate the underlying website.

The attackers embed that URL link in an email, and if a recipient clicks on it, they are taken to a fake but authentic-looking website that is in fact, a phishing website controlled by the attackers.

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The second tactic involves using Image-based attacks by spammers, and the researchers have found that attackers are now increasingly using images, without any text, in their phishing attacks.

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These images, which can be fake forms such as invoices, include a link or a callback phone number that, when followed up, leads to phishing.

As these attacks do not include any text, traditional email security can struggle to detect them, said the report.

Data shows that around one-in-10 (11 percent) organizations were targeted with this type of phishing email in January 2023, each receiving on average around two such emails during the month.

The third tactic involves using special characters hackers, such as zero-width Unicode code points, punctuation, non-Latin script, or spaces, to evade detection.

This tactic is also used in “typo-squatting” web address attacks, which mimic the genuine site but with a slight misspelling.

However, when used in a phishing email, the special characters are not visible to the recipient.

Such attacks can also be difficult to detect because special characters can be used for legitimate purposes, such as in email signatures, the report mentioned.

In January 2023, more than one-in-seven (15 percent) organizations received phishing emails that use special characters in this way, each receiving on average around four such emails during the month.