Demystifying Phishing Attacks: How to Protect Yourself Now
- by Brittany Day
You’re probably familiar with phishing - the prominent email attack that deceives recipients to gain access to their confidential information - often results in serious consequences for its victims, including loss of revenue, reputation, and even forcing some to cease operations completely.
However, there are a few quick tips you can learn to protect yourself and your users and minimize the likelihood of becoming a victim.
What Is Phishing and How Does It Work?
Phishing is a type of digital attack in which threat actors send malicious emails designed to trick users into falling for a scam. The motive behind a phishing campaign is usually to get people to reveal financial information, credentials or other sensitive data. While sending out spam email in bulk is a tactic that is commonly used by phishers in generic, large-scale campaigns, phishers are now shifting in favor of targeted, well-researched attacks. Modern phishing campaigns often employ social engineering, or techniques used to manipulate psychology. These deceptive tactics encourage recipients to act rapidly without stopping to think.
Phishing is a very popular method of attack because it is cheap, easy and effective. Research by Verizon reveals that thirty percent of phishing emails are opened by target users. Phishing scams are virtually free for attackers to carry out, but carry hefty costs for their targets. Victims frequently end up with data loss, identity theft or malware infections - resulting in significant recovery costs and damaged reputations.
Spear phishing is a highly targeted version of phishing that involves sending fraudulent emails that appear to be from a known or trusted sender in order to obtain sensitive information. Spear phishing is becoming increasingly common because it is generally even more successful than conventional phishing in deceiving recipients. As opposed to sending hundreds of thousands of relatively generic emails out at a time, spear phishing campaigns involve researching victims and using advanced intelligence strategies to compose just a thousand or so convincing messages.
Spear phishing can be seen as a cyber crime double-play - threat actors have the ability to compromise the identity of one business and then use it to steal sensitive information from another. Currently, over 95% of all attacks on enterprise networks are attributed to spear phishing.
How To Recognize A Phishing Email
Education and awareness are critical when it comes to phishing protection. Although phishing messages can be highly deceptive and difficult to detect, there are various best practices that you should implement to avoid biting the hook in a phishing attack. They include:
- Check for spelling and grammatical errors which can indicate that an email is fraudulent or malicious. Also, keep an eye out for suspicious subject lines and signatures.
- If an email appears strange in any way, make a phone call to the sender to confirm the legitimacy of the email.
- If you receive an email from a source you know but it seems suspicious, contact that source with a new email, rather than just hitting reply.
- Scan all attachments for viruses or dangerous code.
- Verify shared links to ensure that they do not lead to fraudulent websites or malicious code.
- Think before you act! Take time to evaluate each email you receive before clicking on links or downloading attachments. For example, ask yourself: Does an order confirmation email you’ve received correspond to a recent purchase you have made? Do the sender and recipient addresses make sense?
The image below is a spear phishing email that was identified and quarantined by Guardian Digital EnGarde Cloud Email Security. It mimics a legitimate FedEx shipment confirmation email very closely. Can you spot the phish?
Some indications that this is a fraudulent email include:
- An invalid “From” email address
- Invalid tracking information which differs in the subject and in the body of the email
- A malicious attachment in the bottom left corner - FedEx does not send tracking information in the form of an attachment
How To Protect Business Email From Phishing Attacks
Employee training is an important aspect of securing business email accounts against phishing scams; however, user behavior is ultimately unpredictable. Thus, to effectively protect against phishing, a safeguarded environment must be built around the user. This can be achieved through implementing an advanced, comprehensive email security solution that is capable of identifying and blocking the most stealthy spear phishing attempts in real-time.
Guardian Digital EnGarde Cloud Email Security: Combat Phishing with
Proactive, Multi-Layered Business Email Protection
Guardian Digital Cloud Email Security provides innovative real-time protection against the most targeted and sophisticated phishing scams, coupled with the expert managed services required to keep your users and key assets safe. Key features of EnGarde’s phishing protection include:
- A scalable and customizable cloud-based system
- Policy-based encryption throughout
- A resilient and real-time learning open-source design
- Innovative zero-day threat protection
- A fully-managed system, which reduces your in-office support
- Phishing, spambot, and spoofing attack protection
Want to learn more about phishing and how to protect your users and key assets with intuitive, layered supplementary email protection? Download Our Phishing eBook>
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