Dangerous AI-Driven Phishing Attacks Are Headed to an Inbox Near You

September 21, 2023

AI is a highly beneficial tool in cybersecurity, enabling IT teams to do more with less, making it easier to spot and stop phishing attacks, and eliminating tedium. However, AI isn’t just being used as a defensive tool. Bad actors are increasingly using AI to facilitate cybercrime, and they’re having plenty of success. Every IT professional needs to be aware of the rise in AI-enabled cyberattacks and how it can impact their users and their defenses. 

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AI-enabled cyberattacks have exploded 

Cybersecurity professionals agree on one facet of the AI revolution: generative AI is a game-changer for cybercriminals to develop and modify attacks quickly. AI makes it easier for bad actors to develop and launch attacks that challenge cyber defenses — and they aren’t hesitating to exploit the technology to the fullest. Researchers have noted a steep increase in cyberattacks using novel social engineering methods — up by over 130% in 2023 — and they attribute that growth to cyberattacks that abuse AI tools like ChatGPT.  

Researchers have also noticed an uptick in the use of AI to enable multistage cyberattacks. That type of attack utilizes sophisticated malicious messages to direct users to take a series of actions before a malicious payload is delivered. The same study noted a nearly 60% increase in that type of attack in 2023, a strong indicator that bad actors are making use of technologies like AI to speed up the pace of attacks to increase their chances of luring in victims. Researchers also noted that many of these attacks employed QR codes — another strong indicator that the attackers made use of automation or AI. 

a laptop screen showing a message telling the user that their files have been encrypted

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AI makes phishing even easier 

Phishing is the most common cyberattack that employees will encounter, and bad actors have done plenty of phishing in the last year. They were ultimately successful in scamming 92% of organizations across the globe in 2022 using sophisticated techniques like creative phishing emails, spoofing and fraudulent websites. The advent of easy-to-access AI tools to create phishing messages has given cybercriminals a new set of tools to launch sophisticated, hard-to-detect phishing attacks with greater ease. 

Not getting caught is an important skill that not all cybercriminals possess. And considering the progress information security professionals have made in developing effective cybersecurity strategies and smart solutions, hackers need to be more evasive. Technologies such as machine learning (ML) allow cybercriminals to train AI systems to recognize and adapt to companies’ security solutions and practices, which spells trouble for IT teams everywhere. AI-powered attacks can learn and evolve from their interactions with defensive systems, constantly adapting their strategies to avoid detection and improve a cybercriminal’s success rate. 

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ChatGPT phishing is a major danger 

In terms of phishing, AI helps bad actors conduct phishing attacks that minimize the number of red flags that even a savvy user might spot in a phishing message. That is very dangerous. Messages constructed using those tools are especially enticing to users and hard to detect. Users are typically taught to look for common red flags like spelling and usage errors to detect a phishing message. However, Large Language Models (LLM), like ChatGPT, easily understand spelling, sentence structure, colloquialisms and usage, making it a breeze for bad actors to construct phishing messages that pass the sniff test with flying colors.  

ChatGPT can be used to conduct many dangerous cyberattacks including:  

  • Phishing and spear phishing  
  • Business email compromise (BEC)  
  • Ransomware and malware infections  
  • Account takeover (ATO)  
  • Conversation hijacking  
  • CEO fraud  
  • Social media phishing attacks  

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Research shows just how easy it is to make a believable phishing message with ChatGPT 

Researchers have been using these tools to create their own phishing messages in order to understand just how dangerous this technology can be when applied to cybercrime, and the results are alarming. ChatGPT is aware that it can be used for phishing, and if you direct it to write a phishing message, it will tell you that phishing is a cybercrime and that it will not help people conduct phishing attacks. However, that isn’t really a barrier at all. With the right prompt, it can easily be used to write a convincing phishing message.  

In a LinkedIn post, one cybersecurity professional gave an example of how that might work. 

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How can businesses mitigate phishing risk like this? 

These tips can help businesses take steps to mitigate the risk presented by AI-enabled phishing attacks:

  • Beef up security awareness training, especially training using sophisticated phishing messages and clever social engineering techniques that can mimic the highly believable messages that those tools can create.  
  • Look for an AI-enabled email security solution that can adjudicate the content of messages effectively, because a solution that utilizes machine learning in the same way that ChatGPT does can train itself to detect AI-generated text.  
  • Build a vibrant security culture that encourages employees to ask questions and become knowledgeable about security threats. This helps everyone stay on top of potential threats like malicious messages generated using ChatGPT.  

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Protect your organization from AI-enhanced email-based cyberattacks like these with Graphus

Graphus is the world’s first AI-driven email security solution that automatically protects organizations from email-based ransomware attacks. The patented AI technology of Graphus creates a wall between organizations and cyberattacks. It automatically monitors communication patterns between people, devices, and networks to reveal untrustworthy emails, making it a simple, powerful, and cost-effective automated phishing defense solution for companies of all sizes.

  • Graphus blocks 99.9% of sophisticated phishing messages before they reach an employee inbox.
  • Puts 3 layers of protection between employees and dangerous email messages.
  • Seamlessly deploys to Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace via API without big downloads or lengthy installs.
  • Provides intuitive reporting to help you gain insights into the effectiveness of your security, level of risks, attack types, and more

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