Anti Phishing - How to safeguard against Phishing
At work, an account tells you to click a link to business pitches, but it seems fishy. Perhaps you’ve been targeted with a phishing attack, and not identifying it will result in a bad situation. In the modern work environment, email phishing threats are more pervasive than ever and continue to get more sophisticated. Over 90% of modern cyberattacks begin with a phishing email.
It’s now a fundamental requirement for businesses to understand and actively prevent cyber threats as an ongoing practice, since these threats are not going away. Understanding the threat of phishing and how to protect against it gives your business an edge in its security, trustworthiness, and credibility with its customers and work partners.
What is Phishing & How Does It Work?
For over 20 years, phishing has been the most common type of email threat. In a typical phishing attack, cybercriminals send malicious emails to trick users into giving up sensitive information or downloading malware onto their devices.
Phishing campaigns often employ social engineering techniques used to manipulate psychology. These scams usually encourage recipients to act rapidly, without stopping to think things through, before interacting with a fraudulent email they have received. In highly targeted spear phishing campaigns, attackers go after specific individuals, using information gathered through research to pose as someone that person knows and trusts.
Because phishing scams exploit user behavior, traditional anti-phishing programs often involve user training and education. However, human behavior is ultimately unpredictable, and more than security awareness training is needed to safeguard against phishing and other email-borne attacks. Ensuring adequate phishing protection via a comprehensive cloud email security solution is imperative in safeguarding your users, key assets, and brand.
The Anatomy of a Phishing Attack
Phase 1: Target
Most phishing attacks begin by acquiring a list of every person the cybercriminals desire to target to have a better chance of deceiving individuals as they learn more about them.
Cybercriminals have methods of finding email addresses for their lists as they use data breach or the dark web for illegal activity, like selling people’s personal information.
Attackers identify people their targets regularly contact to have the best chance of tricking them by accessing consumer databases containing the email addresses of everyone a company serves.
Phase 2: Deliver
It's time to launch the attack, which is done with acting and domain changing. Attackers have target lists, and before contacting, they will do domain spoofing to change their sender address, making it look like it came from an email in the company’s consumer database.
Phase 3: Deceive
Cybercriminals use social engineering to communicate as consumers would, which is why they are also known as threat actors.
Not only are trusted senders impersonated, but they also create urgency by making the email seem like it must be responded to immediately to give victims little chance to review it.
Examples include a business proposal, a worker expected for a while, or even a bank alerting you of an unauthorized transaction on your account and clicking a fake link to confirm identity.
Phase 4: Click
A common method of proceeding with a clicked link is presenting a victim with a login screen looking identical to the login screen of the website they are impersonating to elicit a response.
In the bank example, you click a link after attackers pretend to be with the bank, and the login screen appears, so you log in, but you instead give your login credentials to the attacker.
Phase 5: Exploit
After the victims believed they signed into their bank account, they gave threat actors the ability to log into the victim’s bank account so threat actors could reap the desired rewards. If hackers gain access to your bank account, they can use it themselves or sell the information on the black market.
To make matters worse, the attack usually takes less than a minute to deliver, but it can take as long as an entire day for the computer user's productivity levels to return to normal.
What Are the Most Common Types of Phishing Attacks?
- Deceptive Phishing: This is the most common type of phishing attack, in which fraudulent emails are sent pretending to be genuine organizations. These often contain malicious links or attachments that trick users into providing sensitive information such as login credentials or financial details.
- Spear Phishing: In spear phishing attacks, attackers send personalized and carefully crafted messages to seem legitimate. They gather information about their targets to make the attacks more believable and increase their chances of success.
- Whaling: Whaling attacks are spear phishing that targets explicitly high-level executives or individuals with access to valuable data or resources. Attackers often impersonate senior executives or trusted individuals to trick them into giving away sensitive information or authorizing fraudulent transactions.
- Pharming: In this attack, users are tricked into visiting a malicious website by being redirected from another site they were trying to access. This can happen when their computer is infected with malware or if hackers change the DNS settings on a network.
- Smishing: Smishing, a combination of SMS (Short Message Service) and phishing, involves attackers sending fraudulent text messages to trick recipients into revealing personal or financial information1. These messages often impersonate well-known organizations or provide urgent messages to create a sense of urgency.
- ATO or Lateral Phishing: ATOs are when a hacker gains unauthorized access to a user's legitimate account and then uses that account to launch phishing attacks on people within the user's contact list or organization. The attacker leverages the trust associated with the compromised account to deceive others into revealing sensitive information or clicking on malicious links. This technique allows the phishing attack to spread further and appear more credible, increasing the chances of success.
How Can I Prevent Phishing Attacks?
To help prevent phishing attacks, here are some proactive measures you can take. Please note that phishing attacks are constantly evolving, so it's important to stay vigilant and adopt security measures to protect yourself from falling victim:
- Be cautious of suspicious emails: Don't open emails from unknown senders, click on links, or download attachments in suspicious emails. Be particularly wary of emails asking for personal or financial information.
- Verify the source: Verify the sender's legitimacy Before providing sensitive information or clicking on links. Check the email address or contact the organization directly through their official website or phone number to confirm the request.
- Look for signs of phishing: Be aware that malicious e-mail messages containing spelling or grammatical errors, generic greetings (such as Hi), urgent language ("We need to act now!"), and requests for personal information are often phishing attempts.
- Use two-factor authentication (2FA): Enable 2FA whenever possible. Adding an extra layer of security to your accounts by requiring a second form of verification, like a code sent to your mobile device, can help keep you safe.
- Keep software up to date: Keep your operating system, web browsers, and security software up-to-date to ensure you have the latest security patches and protections against known vulnerabilities.
- Educate yourself and your employees: Keep up with the latest phishing techniques and learn how to identify, report, and block these fraudulent attacks. Train employees about phishing risks and prevention if you're a business owner.
- Install and update antivirus and anti-malware software: Use reputable security software and keep it current. These tools help detect and block malicious websites and phishing attempts.
- Be cautious about public Wi-Fi: Avoid accessing sensitive accounts or sharing personal information when connected to public Wi-Fi networks, as they may not be secure and can be prone to eavesdropping.
- Regularly monitor your accounts: Monitor your bank statements, credit card transactions, and other online accounts to detect suspicious or unauthorized activity.
Safeguard Against Phishing Attacks with Guardian Digital EnGarde Cloud Email Security
As phishing, spear phishing, and whaling attacks continue to grow more sophisticated and problematic for organizations of all types and sizes—from multinational corporations to local schools—anti-phishing software is becoming increasingly important in the fight against cybercrime. A recent study found that over 95% of cyber attacks on enterprise networks begin with a spear phishing email. The best way to protect against phishing attacks is to implement anti-phishing protection as part of an all-in-one, cloud-based security platform.
Phishing emails seem impossible to identify, but Guardian Digital EnGarde Cloud Email Security stops phishing emails from reaching the inbox. Unlike static anti-virus solutions, this one always updates to filter out modern phishing attacks with its open-source development and puts upgrades into its multi-layered filter instantly.
Because no single anti-phishing technology is 100% foolproof, the most effective phishing defense strategy involves a combination of technologies working harmoniously to detect and block attacks. Guardian Digital provides layered anti-phishing defenses as part of its comprehensive, multi-tiered EnGarde Cloud Email Security solution.
Keep Learning About Phishing Prevention
Phishing prevention is a critical concern for all businesses and does not need to be complicated. By following the tips and advice offered in this article, you can mitigate your risk of falling victim to phishers’ dangerous scams.
- Implementing a comprehensive email security system can help prevent advanced threats, such as targeted spear phishing, and ransomware.
- Improve your email security posture to protect against attacks by following best practices.
- Keeping the integrity of your email safe requires securing the cloud with spam filtering and enterprise-grade anti-spam services.
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