I know that Phishing attacks try to gain access or sensitive information from the user or victim. This attack comes under the Social Engineering attack, where personal confidential data such as login credentials, credit card details, etc., are tried to gain from the victim with human interaction by an attacker.

But let's say someone attaches a virus or malware inside an email, where this virus or malware is responsible to track the user's inputs on certain sites to gain access to sensitive info, does this attack count as Phishing attack?


2 Answers 2


Yes and no.

In practice, yes, this is considered "phishing" even though it does not satisfy the strict definition. Only because there are no other better terms. "Phishing" now tends to encompass any directly malicious email.

The justification is that the person has been "socially engineered" to open the malicious attachment.


The term "phishing" is used in two senses.

The tighter definition is that it must involve automated collection of credentials. This typically involves a form pretending to be a legitimate site requesting your login information.

The broader definition is a superset of all high-risk threats, often with respect to email. In this case, "phishing" is merely a "more dangerous spam".

My own personal taxonomy divides email threats into four categories as defined by their payload:

  1. Phishing involves automated collection of credentials, typically with a form
  2. Scam (including Business Email Compromise, BEC) is a conversational confidence trick
  3. Malware involves an exploit, typically with an attachment or link to a malicious binary
  4. Spam is junk mail or any other attack

There is a lot of overlap between these categories, but at least keying on payload helps keep it a little cleaner.

There's also context: I've seen plenty of emails that look like phishing attacks but then you click the link (in a controlled environment!) and find it's just a pharma site. From an email content perspective, it's a phishing attack, but from a web perspective, it's not. Some Scams lead to Phishing sites. Some Malware will scan your computer and extract login credentials to send back to the attacker.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .