4 Ways Scammers Use Phishing Techniques to Launch Ransomware Attacks

by | September 29, 2021 | Cybersecurity, ATTACK Simulator Guides, How to

Security experts agree that most ransomware attacks happen as a result of scammers using various phishing techniques. Usually, phishers steal account credentials – username and passwords – to compromise user accounts with the ultimate goal of financial gain. However, they can use their techniques to get your computer infected.

We’ve compiled a list of the top four ways that bad guys use phishing in ransomware attacks.

Scammers use various phishing techniques in ransomware attacks.

What Is Phishing And How Does It Work?

Phishing is a cyberattack in which cybercriminals pretend to be a reputable entity or person, engaging various ways of online communication to distribute malicious links or attachments that can perform a variety of functions, but to one single end: stealing the victim’s data for financial gain.

This type of online fraud uses subtle and cunning social engineering strategies that allow cybercriminals who leverage human trust to steal the victim’s sensitive data, which is a lot easier than breaching a computer’s or a network’s defenses.

4 Phishing Techniques Scammers Use To Compromise User Accounts

Everyone already knows that the hallmark of a phishing email is a link. However, phishers use links in various ways, along with different obfuscation techniques. In a typical phishing attack, the link leads the victim to a webpage that mimics a brand, such as a vendor, cloud services provider like Microsoft and PayPal, or a financial institution. In addition, phishing emails usually entice users by claiming their account is locked, their payment details need updating, or that they need to log in to recover a message or document.

A prevalent variant of this scam is the Microsoft OneDrive phishing attack, in which the target receives a spoofed email either from Microsoft or a colleague. The email instructs the victim to click the link to retrieve a OneDrive file. For that, they need to log in to Office 365. When they do, the phishing site grabs their credentials.

OneDrive phishing scam. Source: VadeSecure

Hackers will often hide phishing links in attachments rather than inserting them in the body of the email to avoid detection by security filters. A typical attack that uses malicious attachments is the “Invoice Attached” scam. The email directs the recipient to open an attachment to retrieve an invoice. The fake invoice contains an URL that leads to a phishing page, where the victim fills in their account credentials, unknowingly handing them over to the bad guys.

American Express phishing scam. Source: VadeSecure

3. Fake Attachments

In this type of attack, the email attachment (usually a Word document or a PDF file) isn’t an attachment but a phishing link. When the user tries to open the fake attachment, they are taken to a phishing page. Other times, the ransomware download starts automatically via a macro function, or the victim enables macros in the document, triggering the ransomware download.

Fake attachment phishing technique. Source: VadeSecure

4. Multi-Step Attacks

A multi-phase or lateral phishing attack starts with phishing and transforms into spear-phishing. A hacker sends a spoofed Microsoft email demanding the recipient to log in to Office 365. The user’s credentials get stolen on the phishing page, and the hacker gains access to the business’s Office 365 environment. Now, the scammer can send internal spear-phishing emails to selected employees throughout the organization.

Protect Your Business With ATTACK Simulator’s Security Awareness Training For Your Employees

Hoping you’ll dodge the bullet (or hook)? Still relying on luck? Think again. Figures paint a rather grim cybercrime landscape, and phishing becomes more sophisticated by the day.

Phishing attacks can be catastrophic, resulting in immense financial damage or even the end of your business. Unfortunately, scammers will go for the weakest link in the chain – your employees. But we’ve got you covered.

You need security awareness training for your employees for many reasons:

  • To prevent cyberattacks and breaches
  • To strenghten your technological defenses
  • To attract more customers
  • To make you more socially responsible
  • To empower your employees
  • To meet compliance standards
  • To prevent downtimes and maintain a good reputation

Our realistic phishing simulations will expose your employees to life-like hands-on fake phishing attacks. They’ll learn to dodge the hook the way Neo dodges bullets in The Matrix.

Here are some awesome perks of choosing us:

  • Automated attack simulation – we simulate all kinds of cyberattacks: phishing, malware, ransomware, spear-phishing, identity theft, online privacy attacks, online scams etc.
  • Real-life scenarios – we evaluate users’ vulnerability to give company-related or pesonal data away using realistic web-pages.
  • User behavior analysis – we gather user data and compile it in extensive reports to give you a detailed picture of your employees’ security awareness level.
  • Malicious file replicas – our emails contain malware file replicas, to make the simulation as realistic as it can be.
  • Interactive lessons – if employees fail to recognize our traps and fall into one, they will be redirected to landing pages with quick reads on the best security practices.
  • We impersonate popular brands on our simulated phishing pages – the user will be more tempted to click on the URL or open the attachment in the email.

ATTACK Simulator’s Security Awareness Training program will help you equip your employees with the necessary security knowledge and up-to-date security practices to keep your company safe from scammers and avoid potentially irreparable damage.

Would your employees take the bait? Put them to the test with our free security awareness training trial and know for sure!


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by Diana Panduru

Content writer for Attack Simulator. Passionate about all things writing and cybersecurity, and obsessed with driving. I sometimes indulge in pencil drawing, poetry, and cooking for fun.

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