Skip to content

T1598.003 Spearphishing Link

Adversaries may send spearphishing messages with a malicious link to elicit sensitive information that can be used during targeting. Spearphishing for information is an attempt to trick targets into divulging information, frequently credentials or other actionable information. Spearphishing for information frequently involves social engineering techniques, such as posing as a source with a reason to collect information (ex: Establish Accounts or Compromise Accounts) and/or sending multiple, seemingly urgent messages.

All forms of spearphishing are electronically delivered social engineering targeted at a specific individual, company, or industry. In this scenario, the malicious emails contain links generally accompanied by social engineering text to coax the user to actively click or copy and paste a URL into a browser.23 The given website may be a clone of a legitimate site (such as an online or corporate login portal) or may closely resemble a legitimate site in appearance and have a URL containing elements from the real site.

Adversaries may also link to “web bugs” or “web beacons” within phishing messages to verify the receipt of an email, while also potentially profiling and tracking victim information such as IP address.6

Adversaries may also be able to spoof a complete website using what is known as a “browser-in-the-browser” (BitB) attack. By generating a fake browser popup window with an HTML-based address bar that appears to contain a legitimate URL (such as an authentication portal), they may be able to prompt users to enter their credentials while bypassing typical URL verification methods.75

From the fake website, information is gathered in web forms and sent to the adversary. Adversaries may also use information from previous reconnaissance efforts (ex: Search Open Websites/Domains or Search Victim-Owned Websites) to craft persuasive and believable lures.

Item Value
ID T1598.003
Sub-techniques T1598.001, T1598.002, T1598.003
Tactics TA0043
Platforms PRE
Version 1.4
Created 02 October 2020
Last Modified 15 April 2023

Procedure Examples

ID Name Description
S0677 AADInternals AADInternals can send phishing emails containing malicious links designed to collect users’ credentials.8
G0007 APT28 APT28 has conducted credential phishing campaigns with embedded links to attacker-controlled domains.19
G0050 APT32 APT32 has used malicious links to direct users to web pages designed to harvest credentials.27
G0035 Dragonfly Dragonfly has used spearphishing with PDF attachments containing malicious links that redirected to credential harvesting websites.17
G0094 Kimsuky Kimsuky has used links in e-mail to steal account information.313032
G0059 Magic Hound Magic Hound has used SMS and email messages with links designed to steal credentials or track victims.111214131015
G0129 Mustang Panda Mustang Panda has delivered web bugs to profile their intended targets.16
G0040 Patchwork Patchwork has used embedded image tags (known as web bugs) with unique, per-recipient tracking links in their emails for the purpose of identifying which recipients opened messages.20
G0034 Sandworm Team Sandworm Team has crafted spearphishing emails with hyperlinks designed to trick unwitting recipients into revealing their account credentials.28
G0121 Sidewinder Sidewinder has sent e-mails with malicious links to credential harvesting websites.18
G0122 Silent Librarian Silent Librarian has used links in e-mails to direct victims to credential harvesting websites designed to appear like the targeted organization’s login page.212223242526
S0649 SMOKEDHAM SMOKEDHAM has been delivered via malicious links in phishing emails.9
G0128 ZIRCONIUM ZIRCONIUM has used web beacons in e-mails to track hits to attacker-controlled URL’s.29


ID Mitigation Description
M1054 Software Configuration Use anti-spoofing and email authentication mechanisms to filter messages based on validity checks of the sender domain (using SPF) and integrity of messages (using DKIM). Enabling these mechanisms within an organization (through policies such as DMARC) may enable recipients (intra-org and cross domain) to perform similar message filtering and validation.41
M1017 User Training Users can be trained to identify social engineering techniques and spearphishing attempts. Additionally, users may perform visual checks of the domains they visit; however, homographs in ASCII and in IDN domains may render manual checks difficult. Phishing training and other cybersecurity training may raise awareness to check URLs before visiting the sites.


ID Data Source Data Component
DS0015 Application Log Application Log Content
DS0029 Network Traffic Network Traffic Content


  1. Australian Cyber Security Centre. (2012, December). Mitigating Spoofed Emails Using Sender Policy Framework. Retrieved October 19, 2020. 

  2. Babon, P. (2020, September 3). Tricky ‘Forms’ of Phishing. Retrieved October 20, 2020. 

  3. Kan, M. (2019, October 24). Hackers Try to Phish United Nations Staffers With Fake Login Pages. Retrieved October 20, 2020. 

  4. Microsoft. (2020, October 13). Anti-spoofing protection in EOP. Retrieved October 19, 2020. 

  5. mr.d0x. (2022, March 15). Browser In The Browser (BITB) Attack. Retrieved March 8, 2023. 

  6. NIST Information Technology Laboratory. (n.d.). web bug. Retrieved March 22, 2023. 

  7. ZScaler. (2020, February 11). Fake Sites Stealing Steam Credentials. Retrieved March 8, 2023. 

  8. Dr. Nestori Syynimaa. (2018, October 25). AADInternals. Retrieved February 18, 2022. 

  9. FireEye. (2021, May 11). Shining a Light on DARKSIDE Ransomware Operations. Retrieved September 22, 2021. 

  10. Bash, A. (2021, October 14). Countering threats from Iran. Retrieved January 4, 2023. 

  11. Certfa Labs. (2021, January 8). Charming Kitten’s Christmas Gift. Retrieved May 3, 2021. 

  12. ClearSky Research Team. (2020, August 1). The Kittens Are Back in Town 3 - Charming Kitten Campaign Evolved and Deploying Spear-Phishing link by WhatsApp. Retrieved April 21, 2021. 

  13. Miller, J. et al. (2021, July 13). Operation SpoofedScholars: A Conversation with TA453. Retrieved August 18, 2021. 

  14. Miller, J. et al. (2021, March 30). BadBlood: TA453 Targets US and Israeli Medical Research Personnel in Credential Phishing Campaigns. Retrieved May 4, 2021. 

  15. Raggi, M. et al. (2022, March 7). The Good, the Bad, and the Web Bug: TA416 Increases Operational Tempo Against European Governments as Conflict in Ukraine Escalates. Retrieved March 16, 2022. 

  16. US-CERT. (2018, March 16). Alert (TA18-074A): Russian Government Cyber Activity Targeting Energy and Other Critical Infrastructure Sectors. Retrieved June 6, 2018. 

  17. Hegel, T. (2021, January 13). A Global Perspective of the SideWinder APT. Retrieved January 27, 2021. 

  18. Huntley, S. (2022, March 7). An update on the threat landscape. Retrieved March 16, 2022. 

  19. Meltzer, M, et al. (2018, June 07). Patchwork APT Group Targets US Think Tanks. Retrieved July 16, 2018. 

  20. DOJ. (2018, March 23). U.S. v. Rafatnejad et al . Retrieved February 3, 2021. 

  21. Hassold, Crane. (2018, March 26). Silent Librarian: More to the Story of the Iranian Mabna Institute Indictment. Retrieved February 3, 2021. 

  22. Counter Threat Unit Research Team. (2018, August 24). Back to School: COBALT DICKENS Targets Universities. Retrieved February 3, 2021. 

  23. Proofpoint Threat Insight Team. (2019, September 5). Threat Actor Profile: TA407, the Silent Librarian. Retrieved February 3, 2021. 

  24. Counter Threat Unit Research Team. (2019, September 11). COBALT DICKENS Goes Back to School…Again. Retrieved February 3, 2021. 

  25. Malwarebytes Threat Intelligence Team. (2020, October 14). Silent Librarian APT right on schedule for 20/21 academic year. Retrieved February 3, 2021. 

  26. Adair, S. and Lancaster, T. (2020, November 6). OceanLotus: Extending Cyber Espionage Operations Through Fake Websites. Retrieved November 20, 2020. 

  27. Scott W. Brady. (2020, October 15). United States vs. Yuriy Sergeyevich Andrienko et al.. Retrieved November 25, 2020. 

  28. Burt, T. (2020, September 10). New cyberattacks targeting U.S. elections. Retrieved March 24, 2021. 

  29. Jazi, H. (2021, June 1). Kimsuky APT continues to target South Korean government using AppleSeed backdoor. Retrieved June 10, 2021. 

  30. Kim, J. et al. (2019, October). KIMSUKY GROUP: TRACKING THE KING OF THE SPEAR PHISHING. Retrieved November 2, 2020. 

  31. KISA. (n.d.). Phishing Target Reconnaissance and Attack Resource Analysis Operation Muzabi. Retrieved March 7, 2022.