October 21

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The Ultimate Guide to Phishing Prevention

By Hector Velez


By 2021, cybercrime will cost the world a staggering $6 trillion per year. This figure represents the largest transfer of wealth in economic history. The money made from cybercrime will exceed all profits made through the global trade of all the major illegal drugs combined.   

There’s no doubt that cybercrime is the biggest threat to businesses at the moment. And with companies increasingly relying on the internet to do business, cyber threats will only continue to evolve.

Among the commonest forms of cyberattacks is phishing. In March 2020 alone, about 60,000 phishing sites were reported in the U.S. It’s why phishing prevention is at the top of IT security measures for many organizations around the country.

Given that about 91 percent of cyberattacks start with a phishing email, you can almost be sure that the next time criminals target your company, it will be through this method. But what exactly is phishing? How can it harm your business? More importantly, what types of phishing exist, and how can you prevent them?

These are some of the issues we discuss in this comprehensive guide. Read on to learn more.

How Can Phishing Affect Your Business?

One of the reasons online criminals love phishing is because these attacks are often very successful and easy to execute. Phishing attacks cost American businesses at least half a billion dollars each year. That dollar figure is expected to rise sharply in the coming years.

In most cases, successful phishing attacks lead to identity theft, the loss of sensitive client information, theft of usernames and passwords, theft of money, and exposure to malware. After a successful cyberattack, your business may also suffer great reputational damage. 

Many breached organizations lose clients immediately following an attack. That’s because American consumers take the security of their personal information very seriously. 

Common Types of Phishing Attacks 

One of the best ways to know how to prevent phishing attacks is first to understand the various forms of phishing. Here are seven commonest phishing techniques cybercriminals use to scam unsuspecting people.

Spear Phishing

During the initial days of phishing, hackers generally sent out phishing emails to numerous users and would wait for some of these users to make mistakes. Today, many criminals opt for a different approach, known as spear phishing. This form of phishing targets a specific organization.

Before executing the attack, a spear phisher will take the time to do extensive research about the target. This way, they can create a highly personalized attack. 

Given that spear phishers have learned your habits and are aware of your weaknesses, they stand a better chance of carrying out a successful attack than if they were using a regular phishing attack.

Session Hijacking 

In session hijacking, a cybercriminal takes control of your computer session so they can access sensitive information in your system. This attack is also referred to as session sniffing or cooking hijacking. 

The attacker uses some sophisticated sniffer software that can intercept communications from your computer. The software enables them to have unauthorized access to your web server.

Spoof Email

As we hinted before, email is among the top weapons phishers use. In spoof emailing, the attacker sends fake emails to users. 

Impersonating a reputable brand, the attacker asks unsuspecting users to provide personal information, including their account details. They may ask you to fill out a form providing these details. 

Spoof emails are usually marked urgent, so the unsuspecting target doesn’t have enough time to know what’s happening before they provide confidential information. An email may have a subject line that claims your account is suspended. Such a subject line may make you nervous and lead you to make the mistake of handing out important information.

Spoof emails also ask you to log into your account to reactivate it. The moment you do, the phishers are able to collect your information and use it to commit fraud.

Content Injection

Content injection is a type of phishing where the attacker injects their content into a reputable site. The intention here is to mislead users to malicious websites that collect confidential information from the users. 

Web-Based Delivery

This highly sophisticated phishing method involves cybercriminals intercepting the online transaction processes of unsuspecting users. As soon as you fill out a form, the details you enter in the form get transferred to the attackers. By the time you know what’s going on, the attackers have wiped off your bank account. 

Search Engine Phishing

This phishing technique involves search engines where search results send you to websites offering cheap deals or low-cost products. As soon as you click on one of these links to buy the product, you’ve fallen into the snare. Phishers collect your personal information and credit card information, which they then use for nefarious activities. 

Link Manipulation

Phishing works through malicious websites, URLs, and attachments. In link manipulation, the attackers trick you into visiting bogus websites that are a replica of legitimate websites. Every detail you enter on that website is accessed by hackers who then use it to commit fraud. 

Another method of link manipulation closely related to link manipulation is deceptive phishing. In deceptive phishing, the attacker deceives the target by creating a fake website. Their success in scamming users depends on how closely they can replicate the original website.

Vishing

Vishing is a common phishing scam that occurs over the phone. Of the phishing scams in this list, vishing has the highest level of human interaction. The scam, however, follows a similar pattern to other phishing techniques. 

Using a spoofed ID, the phisher poses as someone else and tricks the victim into divulging sensitive information. The attacker will usually create a sense of urgency, so the user provides information without a second thought.

A common example is where an attacker poses a bank employee who’s trying to flag up suspicious activity in one of your company’s bank accounts. They may ask you for such sensitive information as login details, pin, and passwords. These details are then used for nefarious purposes.

Smishing

In smishing, attackers use SMS messages instead of emails. The fraudster sends a text message to your phone to get you to divulge sensitive information. The message will usually contain a call to action that asks for your immediate response. 

Keylogging

Keylogging is among the most sophisticated phishing techniques out there. The scam involves installing malware in the computers of targets. This malware tracks everything you do on your PC’s keyboard.

Whenever you press a key, the malware sends that information to the hacker. This makes it easy for criminals to gain access to the login details of your bank accounts. 

How Can You Spot Phishing Attacks?

An effective phishing attack prevention strategy must involve being able to detect phishing attacks as early as possible. One reason phishers are so successful is that few people can spot a sophisticated attack when it happens.  Here are four giveaway signs of a potential phishing scam. 

The URL Seems Mismatched

Every time you get an email that contains a link, ensure you check the validity of that link before clicking on it. A simple way to do that is by hovering your mouse over the link. This helps you to see the full hyperlinked address without having to click on the link.

Does the URL match the hyperlinked address displayed? If not, then the email is fraudulent. 

Emails That Request Personal Information

No reputable company will send you an email asking you to provide your account number, pin, password, and other security details. Whenever you receive such an email, chances are it’s a phishing email. Delete it immediately. 

Poor Grammar and Spelling

Hackers aren’t renowned for their stellar grammar. Some messages they sent out may have a few spelling errors or other grammatical mistakes.

Why should these mistakes alarm you? Because no legitimate company sends out an email to their customer without making sure that the email has been proofread and any mistakes corrected. Poor grammar and wrong spelling are indicators that the email may not have come from a legitimate source. 

Message Uses Urgent or Threatening Language

A top phishing tactic that cybercriminals use is to instill a sense of urgency or fear in targets to get them into clicking a link. The attacker may claim that your account’s security has been compromised, and you need to take urgent action to remedy the issue.

Always be wary of subject lines that say there has been an authorized login attempt into your account. When unsure of the legitimacy of a request, it’s best to contact the organization directly through their official contact or website. 

How Can You Stop Phishing Attacks? 

So how do you halt phishers from attacking your company? The thing to keep in mind is that cybercriminals are always on the prowl, looking for any opportunity they can get to poke holes in your network. Here are a few phishing prevention methods to keep them at bay.

Educate and Train Your Employees 

The top reason phishers are so successful is that most targets who fall victim to these scams have no idea what’s going on. Many people engage in high-risk behavioral patterns that are easy for attackers to exploit. 

It’s the reason you need to invest in education and training for your employees. Equip them with useful information on such topics as data breaches, cybersecurity, and so on. Provide regular training sessions on how to spot phishing attacks and spot them.

Install Spam Filters

A sophisticated spam filter software program makes it easy to detect all unwanted messages sent to you. The program immediately raises a red flag once it spots something you should be concerned about.

The latest spam filter tools can automatically recognize worldwide spam threats and block them before the emails reach your main inbox. This automated phishing prevention technique ensures that you only receive important emails from legitimate sources.

Install a Reliable Antivirus Software

The number of emails that carry viruses is astounding. Installing an email scanning tool offers a multilayered source of protection to fight off attacks whenever they emerge. Whenever an incoming message is scanned, you’ll get an alert on whether there are any potential threats you need to address.

Establish a Cybersecurity Policy

If you don’t already have a clear policy on your IT security, now’s the time to establish one. The fact is that almost all cyberattacks can be prevented as long as you have the right policy to avert both outsider and insider threats

A good cybersecurity policy outlines what technology you need to use to avert attacks, including phishing. Be sure to make your employees aware of your policy on technology use. Come up with stipulations on how staff should use the internet, personal phones, email, and social media in the office.

Encrypt All Sensitive Information

Phishers will always look for ways to steal sensitive information belonging to your business and clients. As businesses shift to cloud-based technology, cybersecurity crimes continue to increase. Nothing is off-limits for hackers determined to access your data.

It’s the reason you need to encrypt all sensitive data. This way, even if hackers find their way into your data center, they can do little harm.

Phishing Prevention Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult

Phishing continues to be one of the commonest forms of cyberattacks, thanks to its effectiveness, simplicity, and high ROI. Unless you are investing in a strong phishing prevention strategy, it’s only a matter of time before you are targeted. With all the information we’ve shared in this guide, we’re sure you’re better equipped to deal with anything phishers throw at you.

Are you interested in cybersecurity solutions for your business? Go ahead and contact us today.

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