Guide Types of Attacks

Phishing vs spamming: What is the difference? Why is it a concern in 2023?

Phishing vs spamming: What is the difference? Why is it a concern in 2023?

So you are working on a busy Monday and receive an email from someone in the HR department saying you need to update your information by accessing a link. What would you do? You would probably think it is a genuine email from a trusted source given it has your organization’s name init. The next thing you know, all the information you provided got stolen by a cybercriminal who would use it further to access your mail and sell information on the dark web for other criminals to exploit. You just became a victim of phishing.

It is one of the oldest social engineering-based attacks. Why is it still relevant in the world of auto spam and phishing detection that comes with email service providers? How is phishing different from spamming? How to avoid getting spammed and phished? We are going to answer some of these questions with our guide

What is Phishing?

First, let us understand what phishing is. Imagine a person impersonating someone that is trustworthy and deceiving you with stories that aren’t even genuine. In exchange, he collects all kinds of information – who you are, where you live, your phone number, etc. 

Phishing is a social engineering attack usually done through emails and text messaging. Like real-life fishing, the attacker uses bait to lure his victims into giving out their personal, financial, and other sensitive information. 

Phishing is not new. It was first termed in 1996 but gained quick momentum in the 2000s. In 2023, phishing has evolved and targeted people from top positions, particularly CEOs, COOs, etc. It is also known as whaling, is more prevalent today than before a phishing attack occurring every 11 seconds, and not just senior management of renowned companies but also small and medium-sized businesses who are newer to their industry. 

With AI assistants like ChatGPT, phishing has become one of the most dangerous threats to the cyber world since it has assisted non-English speaking, new attackers to engage in sophisticated phishing attacks. 

What makes phishing even more dangerous is that it can be used to orchestrate another attack, like a malware attack or ransomware attack. It could create a loss of massive data, money, and reputation. 

In 2023, it is expected that over 33 million records will be extorted via a phishing-based ransomware attack. As per the latest IBM cost of data breaches report 2022, phishing is one of the top vectors of data breaches costing businesses $4.91 million on average with 80% of the attacks in the technology sector based on phishing. 

This points us toward spear phishing. Let us see what spear phishing is,

What is spear phishing?

When an attacker targets mail towards a specific person or a group of people, doing more research about them and spending more time studying them, it is a spear phishing attack. More often, spear phishing attacks are successful in making the recipient feel that the mail has come from a trusted source and that the information in the mail is highly relevant to them so they ignore checking it for authenticity. 

In this, an attacker shares an attachment that may contain malware or ransomware or share a link asking the recipient to open that can expose their personal information by asking for login credentials. Sometimes an attacker may even share a link that could ask the recipient to make unauthorized payments to the attacker. 

Spear phishing can occur through emails, text messages, or even calls! It all depends on what the objective of the attacker is – whether he is looking to infiltrate ransomware or malware into the company’s network, steal sensitive information such as login credentials, or steal personal information such as names, addresses, phone numbers, company specific information like trade secrets, etc. 

Some other common types of phishing include:

  • Vishing (voice phishing)
  • Smishing (text phishing)
  • Image phishing

What does a typical phishing email look like? 

Hi Dev!

I am Monica from the HR department. Since we are updating our records with our health insurance provider for our organization, I need you to log in via this link using the credentials you use for the portal and update your information. To update your bank information, we need you to make a small transaction for verification purposes using the link below. 


[email protected] – suspicious id (note how the account id sounds almost similar to a genuine one. Always check the spelling of the sender’s email. For instance here, the company name is BQuickLogistics but the email has come from

There are some ways to identify whether an email is genuine or not. One of the ways is to check the email address it is coming from. Most phishing emails disguise a full address by placing visual cues to impersonate an authorized person. Phishing emails always ask the receiver to take action in urgency with a story that seems real for example: Your account needs attention, your password is going to expire, update your banking information etc. 

What is Spamming?

Most people are familiar with annoying emails that make huge promises that seem too good to be true. Many believe avoiding spam is easy until they become a victim of spam, either by losing their money or by installing malicious software that will compromise their system. Spam accounted for over 45% of email traffic in December 2022(Statista). 

Now let us understand what spamming is. Spamming is when your inbox gets overflown with unknown and unwanted emails. They are unsolicited emails usually sent out in bulk to multiple email addresses across the internet. Today, spams are not just sent via mail but also by social media messengers, text messages, or even phone calls! Despite email spam filters, somehow, they make it through the inbox. 

Spammers may disguise their emails in the form of marketing communications, customer support, lottery, or any other unsolicited email. They always ask the recipient to open a link or give out their sensitive information.  

One of the noteworthy early incidences of spam was in 1999 when a virus named Mellissa was used through a massive spam campaign affecting over $80 million in damages. 

Some of common examples of spam include

  • Commercial emails and advertisements (gambling, banking, dating, retail offers, etc.)
  • Fake account update warnings
  • Overflooding mails

What does spam stand for?

The term ‘Spam’ is inspired by a British comedy sketch Monty Python in the 1970s, where characters keep repeating the word ‘Spam’ to annoy a woman who discovers that everything on the restaurant menu has SPAM in it. Today, it has become the internet word for unsolicited posts, texts, and emails.

What does a typical spam email look like?

A typical spam mail would have the following things:

  • A suspicious email address made to look like it is from a genuine company. 

Example – [email protected] instead of [email protected]

  • It will have links you will be asked to open with the name of a company you are associated with
  • They will have attachments consisting of malicious software. 
  • Spam emails have subtle grammatical mistakes and spelling errors.
  • It will have offers that seem too good to be legit.

Always check emails for these signs, and never download an unknown attachment unless it was intended to be there. 

Check the business’s official account for messages from the company regarding an attachment or such mail. Do not engage in giving out your personal or any other sensitive information via links. Attackers can use this to hack into your account or orchestrate tailored phishing attacks against you.

Phishing and Spam: what is the difference?

Both phishing and spam attacks are social engineering attacks. Meaning they are both aimed toward the weakest link, human beings. Therefore, what makes them more dangerous is the fact that there is low human awareness of spamming and phishing attacks. Organizations must engage in active awareness campaigns and training to bridge awareness gaps to avoid compromising their sensitive data in a data breach caused by phishing or spamming attacks.

One of the main differences between phishing and spamming is that spam can be legit. They can be legitimate unsolicited emails sent in bulk by a business to many email addresses.

Businesses may send them to achieve better reach, reach new customer networks, etc. However, phishing is always fraudulent and is intended to steal sensitive information or infect the victim’s system with ransomware or other malicious software.

How to avoid spam and phishing? 

There are some ways through which you can protect yourself from becoming a victim of phishing and spamming. The following are some of the best tips that you can implement:

Steps to avoid spam and phishing? 

SharkStriker’s solution

Over the years, API  has remained the single most exploited vulnerability by attackers. It is due to the quickly expanding businesses deploying IoT and web applications to increase customer experience and make business more efficient.

We have explored API security, some of the most dangerous vulnerabilities specified by OWASP, and SharkStriker’s solution to enhance API security across your IT infrastructure.

If you want to address security vulnerabilities across your APIs and applications, then SharkStriker has a range of security testing services for you. Our certified pen testers will help you take the right steps to secure your APIs such that you can scale digitally without any worries.

There is a wide gap in cybersecurity awareness.  It makes it easy for attackers to exploit organizations.

As per one research report, 95% of data breaches occur due to human error.

It is essential to raise awareness in your organization regarding phishing and spamming-based attacks.

We understand that keeping your organization safe from social engineering-based attacks is quite nearly impossible, given that organizations rarely have the budget or the cybersecurity expertise on board to solve their cybersecurity challenges. That is why we have come up with a holistic service that solves all of your cybersecurity challenges through a single service.


Mitigate all the gaps in cybersecurity through the right combination of human expertise and cutting-edge security solutions to augment your security posture with SharkStriker’s cybersecurity-as-a-service. 

Establish an automated detection and response to threats like malware attacks based on phishing.

A holistic enterprise-grade security service that assists organizations in implementing measures based on security best practices to enhance their security posture overall. 

If you are interested in this service, let us know, and we will revert you as soon as possible.


Phishing is as old as the beginning of the internet. Despite the awareness, it has become one of the most dangerous attack vectors in 2023.

Gartner listed it as one of the top emerging threats.  It poses a severe risk if the person targeted has not taken enough measures to safeguard their system and the network.

Because of the increasing workforce remotely working connected to the network, there is an increased risk of phishing attacks. Any compromise could prove to be disastrous to the organization.

Spamming is another kind of unsolicited mail usually sent out in bulk across different addresses on the internet. There are key differences between phishing and spamming. One of the main differences is that any spam can be legitimate, however, phishing is always illegitimate. 

Therefore, it is essential to take measures to safeguard ourselves from such attacks.

It is critical to assess the source of the mail and double-check the grammar and spelling in the body text of the mail. One must install anti-malware and phishing software that detects suspicious mail along with the files that are attached to them. Multi-factor authentication helps in preventing most kinds of phishing attempts by creating an additional layer of security for your account.  

SharkStriker has come up with a holistic service that caters to every aspect of security by offering a combination of human expertise and security solutions through real-time monitoring of the IT infrastructure for anomalous activities and detection of the environment for threats.

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