A baiting attack is using mainly Gmail addresses to reach its victims, as these attacks are on the rise all over the world.
According to Barracuda who surveyed 10,500 organizations, 35% of them received at least one bait attack email in September 2021.
What is a baiting attack?
A baiting attack is a type of phishing that entails gathering information about a target. But the main reason is to use the data in an even more targeted attack in the future. It’s a preparatory step that doesn’t usually come with any payloads or links on the email body.
Although most of these emails include a high-chance response basic question, many don’t include anything at all. It might seem strange to send an almost empty email, but threat actors are using them with precise goals.
First of all, they can confirm that the potential victim’s email address is still valid. Secondly, they make sure that the user actively uses the target address. Moreover, it may confirm victim’s susceptibility to unsolicited emails. And last, they test the automatic spam-detection programs that might exist on the computer.
Thus, such email messages can often slip through the phishing defense system, because they lack links to malicious sites or attachments.
Attackers prefer Gmail
According to Barracuda’s stats, 91% of all bait emails are sent from Gmail accounts. This is because Gmail has achieved a strong security and legitimacy reputation. Also, email security solutions treat it as a highly reputable service.
Furthermore, Gmail is a user-friendly way to create pseudonymous accounts. And it even supports “read receipts,” which tell the sender that the recipient opened the message even if they never respond.
Using this technique, the attackers are trying to find out if the potential victim is a real person. So, this works by making sure that the inbox is active and has been used in the past.
What happens if a user takes the bait?
As an experiment, Barracuda responded to these baiting emails. Then, within 48 hours, an employee of the security company received a targeted phishing attack.
So, such quick replies show that there is a strong connection between the empty emails and the phishing attacks. Still, replying to these emails is not a condition for the attackers to start their exploitation. That’s why users should always delete such emails
Anyway, whenever a victim responds to the bait, they become a higher priority for the hackers. Users who respond to these emails are typically more susceptible and easier to exploit.